On many counts, Italy pulled a fast one on India by deciding not to return the marines to stand the legal process with regard to the killing two Indian fishermen, off the Kerala coast in February last year.
The marines had gone to Italy for Christmas and came back promptly. When a Supreme Court order of February 22 permitted them to leave for Italy for four weeks to cast vote in elections, New Delhi had no clue as to what was in store.
The Italian envoy to India had given an undertaking, amounting to a sovereign guarantee following which, Supreme Court allowed the two marines to travel to and remain in Italy for four weeks and "return to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic."
In India, undertrials are not alowed to vote.
As the marines went to Italy, Rome again stepped up the efforts to solve the issue through discussions, citing the differences over the questions of jurisdiction. Italy sent a note on March 6 for seeking a discussion.
On March 11, Italian embassy sends another note saying "since a controversy between the two States has been established, the two Italian Marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, will not return to India on the expiration of the permission granted to them."
"There was an offer to hold discussions which had been made in a note from the Italians on March 6. That is a separate issue from the assurance which was given to our Supreme Court on the basis of which the court had allowed two marines to go back to Italy for a short period," foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said.