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Italian marines issue is diplomatic 'send off', not 'stand off': BJP

In a bid to build pressure on the govt on the Italian marines issue, the BJP will move a Calling Attention Motion today in both Houses of Parliament on Italy's refusal to send back the duo who had killed two Indian fishermen. Italian job

delhi Updated: Mar 13, 2013 11:00 IST

In a bid to build pressure on the government on the Italian marines issue, the BJP will move a Calling Attention Motion on Wednesday in both Houses of Parliament on Italy's refusal to send back the duo who had killed two Indian fishermen.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday morning tweeted: "We are raising the issue of Italian marines in Parliament today."

She tweeted: "It is not a case of diplomatic stand off. It is one of diplomatic send off."

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday also targetted the UPA government on the Italian marines issue and said that nothing short of their return to India must be the acceptable outcome.

He tweeted: " On the issue of #ItalianMarines, nothing short of their return to India must be the acceptable outcome."

"UPA should explain to the nation what actions it plans to take to ensure the return of the #ItalianMarines to India to face trial," the Gujarat CM also tweeted.

Party sources said Najma Heptullah has given a notice to the Chair for moving the Calling Attention Motion in the Rajya Sabha on the matter. Other BJP MPs have also signed on the request.

A similar request for moving a Calling Attention Motion on the same issue is likely to be given by senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh or Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj in the Lower House.

The Left parties as well as Congress MP from Kerala, who had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday to request that all efforts be made to ensure the return of the two marines, are also likely to press for a discussion on the matter.

The Italian Ambassador was summoned by the ministry of external affairs on the issue.

Earlier on Tuesday, the BJP demanded that the government put pressure on Italy to send back the two marines who are facing trial here.

Terming this a "betrayal and bluff" of the Italian government, BJP further said this is also a contempt of the Supreme Court which had allowed them to go to Italy to cast their vote in the general elections there.

The main Opposition also cornered the UPA government, saying this smacks of a "diplomatic collusion" and appears to be "scripted".

Italian envoy summoned

India summoned the Italian ambassador on Tuesday to protest at Rome's decision not to send two marines charged with killing Indian fishermen while on anti-piracy duty back to India to face trial.

The Supreme Court had allowed Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to return home for four weeks to vote in last month's general election, provided they returned.

They have not done so and on Monday the Italian foreign ministry announced India had not responded to its requests for a diplomatic solution to the case. It said there was now a formal dispute over the terms of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

The two sailors, part of a military security team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie from pirates, were accused of shooting the two fishermen after mistaking them for pirates off the southern Kerala in February last year.

The incident has caused a serious diplomatic dispute between Italy and India, which have traditionally had good relations.

"Government of India states firmly that it does not agree with the position conveyed by the Italian government on the return of the two Marines to India," a foreign ministry statement said on Tuesday evening.

"The Italian Ambassador was summoned by the Foreign Secretary today (Tuesday) and Government of India's position on this matter was conveyed to him in the strongest of terms."

"It was conveyed to the Italian Ambassador that the Italian Government was obliged to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the Supreme Court Order."

The Supreme Court said in a long-awaited ruling in January that India had jurisdiction to try the marines, but Italy has challenged that decision, arguing that the shooting took place in international waters.

The sailors arrived back in Italy on Feb. 23, a day before the country's election, after Supreme Court granted their request to exercise their right to vote. They had already spent Christmas in Italy, after a Kerala court allowed them to join their families for the holiday on condition they returned to India by Januray 10, which they did.

Italy's announcement the sailors would not return sparked protests in Kerala on Tuesday. Fishermen marched through the state capital Thiruvananthapuram and burned effigies of them.

"If the government fails to enforce its law, it will encourage foreigners to kill Indians and escape," said T. Peter, a protest leader. "The government should immediately use its power to bring the marines back and put them on trial."

Doramma, wife of Jelastine, one of the two fishermen shot dead, demanded justice.

"The monetary compensation the Italian government gave us does not compensate the loss we have suffered. The government should see that the killers are brought back to stand trial in the case in the country," she said.

Italian marines happy

The two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen today said they were happy to be back and return to work, a day after the government here told India that the duo will not fly back to face trial.

"Now we are finally happy. We are happy to go back to work," said Salvatore Latorre, who along with Massimiliano Girone, have been charged with killing two fishermen off the the Kerala coast in February 2012.

The two marines were allowed to go back to Italy to v ote in February's general elections after the Italian government gave an undertaking to the Indian Supreme Court of returning within four weeks.

The sailors, members of a military security team protecting the cargo ship Enrica Lexie, said they mistook the fishermen for pirates.

First Published: Mar 13, 2013 08:53 IST