Resist bullying

Instead of allowing the judicial process to take its course, the Italian government is resorting to pressure to secure the release of the two marines who fatally shot two unarmed Indian fishermen three weeks ago. Italy’s prime minister Mario Monti is reported to have warned prime minister Manmohan Singh that India was creating a ‘dangerous precedent’ by detaining marines on an anti-piracy mission. He has described the court’s jailing of the marines as being ‘not fully in line with international law.’

Monti’s warning comes close on the heels of the visit of Italian deputy foreign minister to India seeking the release of the marines.  The Monti government is under tremendous domestic pressure. The Italian media and political parties have stirred up nationalist sentiments at home and this has put the government in a spot. This is the first diplomatic wrangle that Monti is having to grapple with since he became prime minister in November and he does not want to be seen to be weak. Hence the muscle-flexing. In a desperate bid to escalate pressure on India, he has roped in the European Union as well as the Vatican, hoping that their additional muscle will push India to hand over the marines.

Italy must understand that its nationals have committed a serious crime – murder – and they will have to face the courts here in India. Handing them over simply because the Italian government is in a soup is a gross undermining of the rule of law. Has the Italian prime minister thought through the implications of the Indian government giving priority to diplomatic niceties over the rule of law? Does he not see that ignoring and circumventing legal procedures and handing over the marines to Italy would create a ‘dangerous precedent’ for the Indian government? The government dictating the court’s course of action to please the Italian government would amount to stepping into the judiciary’s turf. It has implications for our democracy.

While India must resist pressure from the Italians, it should avoid nationalist posturing. Western countries, which have usually been able to arm-twist developing countries into giving in, have been taken by surprise now by India’s tough response. They will be watching India’s next steps closely. Delhi will have to tread carefully. It cannot afford to slip up. It must ensure that the marines are provided with facilities they are legally entitled to and in accordance with their status.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry