Two Italian marines were arrested last year in Kerala, India, accused of manslaughter. Massimiliano La Torre and Salvatore Girone face an Indian law court for having shot two Indian fishermen (an accusation they vehemently deny) confusing them for pirates. The shooting took place in international waters and they should not have been tried in India. India is thus breaking international regulations. In fact the government in New Delhi had agree to appoint special Court of law to decide if they should be handed over to Italian authorities for trial.
That the Indian government considers this story a hot potato is evident. This explain why they took the unprecedented step of issuing, not one, but two licenses for them to get back to Italy, under written assurance (and a pecuniary deposit as guarantee) that they will return to India. This is not the treatment normally reserved to men suspected of murderer.
At the end of their last licence, Italian Foreign Affair Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata stepped in, declaring that they will not be handed back to India. Indian citizens, as expected, reacted with shock and dismay for having been cheated in such a lowly manner by Italy. We exchanged the high moral ground, that was our, giving it back to India. After some wrangling our Foreign Office backtracked and now the two marines are back to India, handed over by undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Steffan de Mistura. This is a total loss of face and dignity for Italy! They did claim that assurances were given that the death penalty for the pair will be excluded. This is clearly another canard. India cannot alter its penal code to please a foreign state or one of its minister.
In a normal country Minister Terzi di Sant’Agata would have presented his resignation. This move would help to reduce the tension between Italy and India and lead to a quick resolution of this murky case. Considering that Terzi di Sant’Agata will have anyway to pack and leave in a few weeks (or a few months) with the swearing in of a new government, he could make an exit with a bang. It is highly unlikely that this former Ambassador will be reconfirmed to his ministerial post. Terzi di Sant’Agata has achieved the near impossible goal of being the worst Foreign Affair Minister since the end of WWII ,even worst than Gianfranco Fini.