India reviewing ties with Italy, seeking EU support
New Delhi, March 14 : India said Thursday it was reviewing "all aspects of our relationship" with Italy following a diplomatic row over the non-return of two Italian marines charged with killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast mistaking them for pirates.
The external affairs ministry said this was part of the ongoing efforts after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as unacceptable Italy's refusal to send back the two marines.
"We have initiated a study of our interactions with Italy," ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here.
"At the end of that internal process, we will take further action that is appropriate taking into account all aspects of our relationship..."
"Based on that study and as the resolution evolves, you will see our response," Akbaruddin added.
The spokesman declined to get into why the Italian marines were allowed to go back to Italy ostensibly to take part in the national election.
The Supreme Court had allowed this after the Italian ambassador to India promised that the marines would return to India to face the Indian law.
Responding to Italian argument that it wanted international arbitration, the spokesman said Italy would have to abide by the promise it made to the Supreme Court.
"The first step in terms of inter-state relations or international public law is that agreements ought to be respected, and we expect Italy to (do that)," Akbaruddin said.
India is also seeking the support of the European Union on the issue, a source said, adding that the EU ambassador here is being 'riefed on India's position.
With India reviewing its ties with Italy, the new Indian ambassador Basant Gupta, who was expected to take over later this month, has not proc"eded to Rome.
"He is"still in India," the source added. Debabrata Saha retired as ambassador in December.
The Italian government has not communicated with India since March, 12 when Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned Italian envoy Daniele Mancini to South Block.
India had conveyed "in the strongest terms" that Italy was obliged to ensure the return of the "wo marines.
"There has been no communica"ion since then," the source added.
The Attorney General of India is in the process of preparing a document on the legal situation to argue before or provide this to the Supreme Court when required, the source added.
Italy has maintained it was prepared to resolve the dispute according to international law as the marines - Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - were facing trial in a court in Rome.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said if Italy does not keep its word "there will be consequences". He said Italy's actions are "unacceptable" and "violate every rule of diplomatic discourse and call into question solemn commitments given by accredited representatives of a sovereign government to our Supreme Court".
The Supreme Court on Feb 22 allowed the two marines to fly to Italy to vote in the Feb 24-25 national elections. The apex court was given an undertaking by the Italian ambassador that the marines will return in four weeks to face legal proceedings in India.
Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get Latorre and Girone tried in Italian courts, while India contends the shooting occurred in its own territory.