In a development that could lead to a diplomatic showdown, Italy has refused to send back two marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast to India.
This is a clear violation of a solemn assurance by Rome to New Delhi that the two would be sent back to face the ongoing legal trials. The Italians were allowed a short leave to vote in the recently-concluded elections in their native country.
“We have received a communication from Italy late tonight (Monday). We will examine it carefully,” external affairs ministry sources said.
Reuters quoted Italian foreign ministry sources as saying that India had not responded to its requests to seek a diplomatic solution to the case.
“Italy has informed that given the formal initiation of an international dispute between the two states, the marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will not return to India,” Italian foreign ministry sources said.
Italy’s decision comes at a time when India is pressuring Italy to part information on the bribery scam in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal.
Earlier, when the marines had gone home for Christmas, Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi had sent a “letter of guarantee” to his counterpart Salman Khurshid assuring him of their return.