With his deputy unable to break the impasse with India over the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast, Italy's foreign minister Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant' Agata is arriving in New Delhi on a two-day visit on Tuesday to push a resolution of the crisis that threatens to cast a shadow on bilateral ties.
The Italian foreign minister's visit to India was scheduled much before the Feb 15 incident in which two Italian marines on board an Italian ship shot dead two Indian fishermen, mistaking them for pirates, but the shooting row has lent the visit an added significance.
In fact, this would be the first high level visit from Italy since the new government was formed there in November last year.
External affairs minister SM Krishna will hold talks with his Italian counterpart and discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, the external affairs ministry said in New Delhi on Sunday while formally announcing the much-speculated visit.
Besides bilateral relations, the situation in Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear crisis and the eurozone crisis are among global issues that are expected to figure in the discussions, said informed sources.
Terzi's visit comes days after Italy's deputy foreign minister Staffan de Mistura held talks with Indian officials and also met Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy to find a diplomatic solution to ease the crisis over the fishermen's killing.
But the positions of the two sides remain poles apart as India maintains that the arrested Marines should be tried according to the Indian Penal Code while Italy has insisted that the incident took place in international waters.
However, the two sides indicated partial accommodation when the Kerala court hearing the shooting case allowed joint ballistic examination of the weapons used in the killing, which started Saturday and is expected to be complete before the Italian foreign minister comes here Tuesday.
There is a strong possibility that the Italian foreign minister offers a hefty compensation package to the slain fishermen.
The two Italian marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, the security officials on board the Enrica Lexie, have been arrested for shooting dead two Indian fishermen Feb 15 after mistaking them to be pirates.
Three days ago, a court in Kollam had extended the police custody of the marines after police told the judge they needed more time to interrogate them.
The next hearing will be Tuesday, the day the Italian foreign minister touches down here.
Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, were mistaken for pirates and shot dead by the marines from the Italian cargo vessel Feb 15, off Alappuzha in Kerala.
The two sisters of Binki have filed a petition in the high court demanding Rs.2 crore (around $400,000) as compensation. Gelastine's wife has filed a petition demanding a compensation of Rs.1 crore (around $200,000).