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Cold India-Italy relations may affect chopper scam probe: KC Singh


Updated: March 13, 2013, 7:13 PM IST
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Cold India-Italy relations may affect chopper scam probe: KC Singh
How can Italy's decision to not send the undertrial marines back affect bilateral and diplomatic ties?

How can Italy's decision to not send the undertrial marines back affect bilateral and diplomatic ties? Former diplomat KC Singh joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. What Options does India have in the International forum for this sir? How will the western countries react? Will European friends and USA support India? Asked by: Narayan

A. Options are always relative to where we stand in a building crisis. At the moment both sides have made mistakes. We have allowed the public discourse at the local level to feed into hyper nationalism. Italians have complicated it by lying in court. The way to de-escalate would be for Italy to unfold their hand. Our Supreme Court left scope for an Italian defence before a special Indian tribunal to plead immunity for serving marines or extenuating circumstances like a genuine mistake if they felt, wrongly as it turns out, that their ship was under pirate attack( ships have been attacked by small boat riding pirates in the past though never so close to the Indian coast),or simply a trial by their court as per their understanding of the Law of the Seas. Running away from a court on false pretexts is the worst option as then as PM said consequences follow.

Q. How important is it for India to maintain diplomatic relations with Italy? Do they really matter on the international stage? Could we afford the arrest of the Italian envoy along with a freeze in all diplomatic relations. Do you envision the possibility of western sanctions in this context? Also would sanctions on our part produce any impact? Asked by: Siddharth

A. Firstly Italy is a part of European Union and thus they may take a collective position. No, I don't think sanctions by all EU countries are a possibility. our relations are too strong with France, UK and Germany. We must not arrest the envoy. It would go against customary international law as well as the Vienna conventions. He has done all he did as under his government's instructions and not in his individual capacity. As it is we are punishing their defence company over the Augusta helicopter deal. We should ratchet up the pressure gradually and await the swearing in of a new government. Italy seems to be driving us towards international arbitration to decide who has the jurisdiction. After all both countries are signatories to the UNCLOS - UN Covention on the Laws to the Seas. We cannot unilaterally decide that our national decisions can override international maritime law. That kind of an attitude would alienate our friends.

Q. Today we got statements from PM that Italy would face stern consequences..what can India are the option with India now.. Asked by: Rohit

A. Let us look at a bouquet of escalating steps. 1. Await the deadline given by Supreme Court and keep urging Italy to get the marines to return.2. If not successful, and if Italy has not meanwhile gone to the ITLOS, the InternationaL Tribunal to which UNCLOS signatories can refer their grouses, appoint the Maritime Tribunal that the Supreme Court wanted to look into the case, and have it conduct the case with the accused tried and punished in absentia. Naturally this cannot but lead to a freezing of bilateral relations.3. Make Italy agree that the marines if sentenced would be allowed to serve their sentence in Italy in an Italian jail as we now have a Transfer Of Prisoners agreement.

Q. Should a delegation from the Indian navy and their diplomacy counter-parts leave for Rome? Asked by: P. Santosh Kumar

A. No the Indian navy has nothing to do with this. The matter has to be dealt with by diplomats and lawyers who understand international law, who actually are there in the Ministry of External Affairs in the Legal and Treaties division.

Q. Is there any relation between this event and the chopper scam.. Asked by: Kapil

A. Whether motives either side are coloured is difficult to say but the consequences of a downturn in relations may be on the scam investigation. Although at the moment the info that India wants is really the banking trail which is in Tunisia, Mauritius, Switzerland etc.

Q. Had these kind of incidents occurred before with India or any other country..If yes what was the steps taken at that time.. Asked by: raj

A. There have been ship collisions in East Asia.The results are messy whenever nationalistic feelings are allolwed to overpower logic. With a coastline as long as India's and rising overlap between international shipping, straying away from the Somali coast worried about piracy, and coastal fishing we may have more incidents like this. We need to have a system of regulating the traffic, training our fishermen on the dos and donts in international waters and if possible monitor coastal traffic to endure order. The tendency to start a war with another country is not desirable.

Q. The marines would have allowed to go to Italy under some conditions or agreement..now if they are violating the agreement..isn't there any international court or Low to deal with it..where India can lodge a complaint. Asked by: Ravi

A. Laws do not work if the protection to individuals is extended by nation patrons. Technically, we can start a trial, issue red corner notices and seek extradition. Italy will not oblige. In any case, the Italians are not saying they will not have their marines face a trial. They want themselves to conduct the trial. US never hands over its serving defence personnel to another country. Take the Lahore incident where a private contactor killed two Paksitanis. Even there they managed to spring him.

Q. We could not help the couple, who was in Norway, we could give justice to the lady who died in Ireland, we could not give justice to those fishermen killed by these two killers, why are we so weak and spineless when injustice happens to any Indian? Asked by: Subodh Deshpande

A. There is difference between legal recourse and justice. Laws often cannot provide total justice whether within a country or internationally. The couple in Norway please remember that while in the beginning India stood behind them and ready to lynch the Norwegians later it turned out there was a domestic problem. Moral: do not jump to extreme conclusions. Things may not be as they appear.

Q. This is with reference to an earlier question you answered. About having to abide by international law. But isn't it also true that domestic law takes precedence over any international convention/ treaty and that if infact we are a signatory or ratify the same, its upon the central govt to bring in amendments in our own laws to bring it in sync with the international convention/ treaty/ law? Asked by: Siddharth

A. Good question. The minute we ratify an international agreement it comes into domestic law. That is why in US all international agreements have to have Senate's approval. Our Supreme Court has also opined that even if enabling legislation has not been passed the international commitment must be read into our law. Otherwise who abroad will take you seriously.

Q. These two killers killed our fishermen, now everyone, except few are agreeing that incident has happened in International Water. Does it not mean it is a conspiracy and making India to compromise on coastal borders, this conspiracy has happened in first 10 kilometers and still then many are saying it is in international water, it means where it happened it do not belong to India, every sort of presence of so called Indian friends in southern sea is increasing, do you see this is a casual act. Asked by: Subodh Deshpande

A. There is no conspiracy. The Italian ship will have its location on the GPS. Calls made from it can be triangulated etc. Beyond 12 nautical miles is the contiguous zone where our jurisdiction gets lessened as compared to within our territorial waters. US has still not ratified the UNCLOS precisely as they as a global power do not want restrictions on their power. But even they submit to the 12 n mile rule as that is derived from customary law, though now in the convention.

Q. Don't you think it is a blunder by Italy? Asked by: Kiran B

A. Yes they either should have continued to question our jurisdiction from the beginning. Once they submitted to our courts and gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court how are they any different from Bitti Mohanty?

Q. Is India's soft state Image made Italy not to send the marines for trial to India..Isn't this image of India is becoming its weakness now.. Asked by: Teja

A. No it is their softness in the head, a government on its last legs, perhaps using it hoping India would negotiate a compromise. They have actually ended up doing the reverse i.e. lost all sympathy in India

Q. Would Italians authorities done the same had it been a more sophisticated country like Germany, US, Britain etc Asked by: Manush

A. They would have from the beginning dealt with it more suavely. In India, too we allowed public opinion in one state to fire national ire and then have it decide the India response.

Q. Sir, Are you accepting that there is a legacy when it comes to safeguard any sort of ship except fishermen. In short at the higher level also it is agreed that let anybody come and kill our civic, we hardly done in terror acts and now we are not doing any things in casual killings. Just come to India, kill anyone and go this what the message we are passing, why? Asked by: Subodh Deshpande

A. Please do not let emotions rule our approach. What happened was a horrible incident perhaps caused by a paranoid set of marines worried about any boat coming close to their ship and poor fisherman unable to read that paranoia. I do not think it was a deliberate act to insult India.

Q. How can Italy's decision to not send the under-trial marines back affect bilateral and diplomatic ties? Asked by: Jeevan

A. Remains to be seen. It would depend on sense of returning to Italian actions and moderation to Indian public opinion.

Q. Can UN interfere in this matter? Asked by: Jeevan

A. No this is not endangering international peace and security. Yes, both countries can agree that ITLOS should determine which country has jurisdiction and both should abide by the outcome, including the return of marines to India if the international maritime law so dictates.

Q. Why every country can walk over India? Why can we not take a stand for it?Its really ridiculous on our part to let them go before investigation and justice. And the reason what they gave was to cast their vote. It's ridiculous. Is there any possibility of bringing them and what would be course of action on them? Asked by: Samuel

A. Please do not be so despondent. This will get resolved. Ultimately, Indian power and international law will prevail. Not immediately but eventually.

Q. If the Italian embassy goes back in their commitment naturally India must take a firm action against the Italian embassy and it would naturally affect the bilateral and diplomatic ties with that country? Asked by: prathap

A. PM has told the house that consequences shall follow. I am sure they will but we must react in a calibrated manner, raising the pitch slowly.

First Published: March 13, 2013, 7:13 PM IST
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