After two days of high drama, officers of the Italian cargo vessel Entrica Lexie succumbed to Indian pressure and agreed to help police investigate the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on Wednesday.
For the last two days, Italian authorities had contended the incident took place in international waters, a point challenged by Indian authorities.
On Saturday, the ship was detained and the Kerala police questioned the crew.
The police had earlier registered a murder case and also sent a letter to the ship captain asking him to hand over the six persons who allegedly shot dead Ajesh Binki from Tamil Nadu and Gelastine from Kerala. The Italians claimed they shot at the fishermen after mistaking them to be pirates.
The ball started rolling after the prime minister’s office sought a report from both home and external affairs ministries.
Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy talked tough. “We are collecting more evidence. We will not allow them to go free after committing a cold-blooded murder,” he said.
Italian foreign minister Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant’Agata called up his Indian counterpart SM Krishna on Saturday and condoled the deaths. He also said both countries should work together to find a mutually acceptable procedure to establish the facts beyond any doubt and determine responsibilities.
On his part, Krishna informed him about the public anger over the incident.
While differences persist on the issue, officials were hopeful of its immediate resolution.
In Chennai, Union shipping minister GK Vasan told mediapersons the killing in the Indian waters was unacceptable.