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This is enemy action, arrest Italy envoy: BJP

Last updated on: March 13, 2013 18:05 IST

'They have violated every rule'

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Taking a tough stand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday accused Italy of violating "every rule of diplomatic discourse" and asked it to send back the two marines who were undergoing trial here for killing two Indian fishermen.

Responding to the issue raised by the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, Dr Singh noted that the country is agitated over Italy's action, which is unacceptable, and said the government will pursue all diplomatic channels to bring the two marines back.

Urging the Italian authorities to respect the undertaking given to the Supreme Court, he said they should return the two accused -- Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone -- to stand trial in India.

"They have violated every rule of diplomatic discourse and called into question solemn commitments given by an accredited representative of a government," Dr Singh said in the Lok Sabha, which witnessed an uproar during Question Hour as well as Zero Hour.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Photographs: Samrang Pring/Reuters
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'There will be consequences'

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The prime minister, who made a similar statement in the Rajya Sabha, said the government has already made it clear that this action by the Italian government is "not acceptable".

"If they do not keep their word, there will be consequences for our relations with Italy," Dr Singh said firmly, adding that a bilateral relationship has to function on the basis of trust.

Assuring Parliament that the government would continue to urge Italy through diplomatic channels to send back the marines, he urged the members to act and speak together, while dealing with the matter with the seriousness that it deserves.

The prime minister's response came after former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh and Communist Party of India -- Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia attacked the government on the issue, with the Bharatiya Janata Party leader dubbing the action of the Italian government as a "very curious Italian job".

Rajya Sabha also witnessed an uproar over the issue, with demands for the arrest of Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath assured the members that the government will address the matter with all the firmness it deserves.

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Image: Italian sailors Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner's office in Kochi
Photographs: Sivaram V/Reuters
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'Deal as Romans do'

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He also expressed his readiness to accept the demand of some members for a "comprehensive discussion" on the issue.

Dissatisfied with the minister's statement, members from the CPI-M and the BJP trooped into the Well and shouted slogans, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House for half an hour.

When the House reassembled at 1 am, the Prime Minister made a brief statement on the issue, after which Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the House till 2 pm.

Earlier, raising the issue during Zero Hour, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the two marines "absconded" as a result of "deception and outright fraud", due to which India stands "deceived".

Noting that Italian laws did not require the Marines to be physically present to cast their votes, as they could have exercised their franchise even through mail, Jaitley said their act of approaching the Indian government for sending the Italian marines back to that country appears "pre-scripted".

Terming this as the "first such case of state-sponsored abduction and state-sponsored deception", he said, "When you deal with Romans, deal as Romans do."

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Image: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano meets Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre at Quirinale presidential palace in Rome
Photographs: Reuters
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'You should forget diplomatic niceties'

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Jaitley said he seriously doubted whether the Italian ambassador, who had submitted before the Supreme Court in this matter, should continue to enjoy diplomatic privileges.

Alluding to Bofors scam accused Ottavio Quattrocchi, without naming him, and the recent AgustaWestland deal in which the Italian government refused to accept India's request for more information, he said, "It is time for the government of India to act, when they have broken every norm".

"The time has come since we have seen such a thing happening for the third consecutive time. You should forget diplomatic niceties, this should be treated as enemy action. The government of India must respond," he said.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V Maitreyan said the government of India should arrest the Italian ambassador.

CPI-M leader P Rajeeve also wanted to know whether the government was ready to take action against the Italian ambassador.

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Image: Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre speak to the media after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome
Photographs: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
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'Does Italy rule over India?'

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Maitreyan rued that "people of India are watching helplessly and the government is groping in the dark, as Indian fishermen are killed by Sri Lankan forces and Pakistan beheads Indian soldiers".

P Rajeeve said the incident was an attack on the Indian government and democracy. He asked, "Who rules India? Does Italy rule over India or does an Italian"?

He also sought to know why Indian lawyers and the Solicitor General did not argue the point in the Supreme Court -- that the Italian citizens did not require their physical presence to cast their votes and could have done it through mail as well.

"Why did the Indian pleaders not raise this valid point," he said. He was supported by Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, who asked, "What was the compulsion? The question is why were they allowed to go? This is the first example in the world where a murder accused is allowed to go on the basis of on affidavit."

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said this was a case of state-sponsored violation of Indian law.

"The situation is very serious. I do not think this case can be treated casually and under diplomatic niceties," he said.

Referring to the Italian government's submission -- that the prisoners needed to go to their families to celebrate Christmas -- he wondered, "What if all inmates of Tihar Jail plead that 'we want to go home to celebrate Holi'."

Yechury also referred to Purulia arms drop case accused Kim Davis, Bhopal gas tragedy accused Warren Anderson and Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrocchi -- saying they were allowed to leave the country in a similar way.

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Image: Arun Jaitley
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.arunjaitley.com/
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'A very curious Italian job'

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Trinamool Congress leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said the Italian government has "challenged the authority of our Supreme Court and the authority of the Indian government".

Janata Dal – United leader N K Singh said that the affidavit by the Italian ambassador was a "fraudulent affidavit in which it was fraudulently mentioned that they have to be physically present to cast their votes."

BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad apprehended that the tension between the Italian and the Indian governments over the marine issue could be used "as a ploy not to give information to India on AgustaWestland" helicopter scam.

His colleague Najma Heptulla wondered whether this case may be used to seek similar facilities by prisoners for permission to go home to celebrate Holi, Diwali or Id festivals.

CPI-M leader K N Balagopal drew parallels of the incident with the Delhi gang-rape case and demanded a separate discussion on it, saying the entire nation was in solidarity over the issue.

DMK leader Tiruchi Siva asked whether India will alert Interpol about the accused Italian marines.

In the Lok Sabha, BJP leader Jaswant Singh said that it was a "very curious Italian job as the sequence of events makes me wonder where the country is now headed".

He said that the Italian marines, "in a very strange and curious manner", were granted parole to go home for Christmas.

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Image: Jaswant Singh
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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'We are all being tested'

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Seeking tough action in the matter, he told the government, "We are all being tested in the eyes of the international community (as to how far India goes) for the protection of its citizens."

Besides, he said, it was a "rather strange" judgment of the Supreme Court, which allowed the marines to go home and vote in the Italian elections.

Wondering whether Indian prisoners are given the permission to go home and vote in the local elections, he demanded an explanation for the "special treatment" to the marines.

The BJP leader also recalled how in the past Warren Anderson, head of Union Carbide, was allowed to escape after the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. He also alleged that the "CBI was compliant" in the escape of Quattrocchi sometime ago.

He said India should not tolerate Italy's refusal to return the Marines.

CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia demanded to know what steps the government has taken against the Italian ambassador, who had given an undertaking about the return of the marines.

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Image: Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre
Photographs: Sivaram V/Reuters
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