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India may expel the Italian ambassador: Surya Gangadharan


Updated: March 18, 2013, 6:10 PM IST
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India may expel the Italian ambassador: Surya Gangadharan
How can New Delhi and Rome cooperate to work out a solution which will be acceptable to both parties?

How can New Delhi and Rome cooperate to work out a solution which will be acceptable to both parties? CNN-IBN's international affairs editor Surya Gangadharan shared his perspective in an interaction with IBNLive readers on the matter.

Q. What should India do so that those killer marines get harshest punishment which sets an example to other nations ? Asked by: Shashi

A. Well Shashi would could try and kidnap them from wherever they are, or throw the Italian Ambassador in jail. But frankly, if you look at it coolly, what can we do. The birds have flown, they're not coming back unless we threaten the Italians with serious economic penalties, cancel contracts. But we may only end up cutting our nose to spite our face.

Q. Is there a sincere desire to end this row in UPA government? Isn't it convenient for the row to remain unresolved so that it can be a reason for the murky chopper deals investigation to remain at the backseat? Asked by: P Vaidya

A. There's a lot of that buzz. It was even said that this whole thing was the result of collusion "at the highest level" (whatever that means). Since the bribes from the chopper deal are said to have "been taken at the highest level", perhaps it suits both sides to keep things quiet.

Q. Could this episode be used as a bargaining chip by India to get the Italian authorities to co-operate on the Chopper scandal in background diplomatic negotiations? Asked by: Udayan

A. Mr Udayan, what bargaining chips do we have? As I have remarked earlier, the birds have flown. I'm not sure the Italian ambassador provides us any leverage at all. We could cancel all the contracts with Italy (of which defence is a significant number but that is self defeating.

Q. why we calling it a row between Italy and India. Is it possible without the help of people who run the country "whether in judiciary or in administration", it would have been possible? Asked by: atul

A. Yes comrade Atul, you have hit the nail on the head!! I'm not sure who all are involved, but since we were trying these guys here, allowing them to go to Italy "to vote in an election" smacks of utter stupidity. We should have done a fast track trial, sentenced them to jail and after a period, could have sent them back to finish their sentence in Italy.

Q. So according to you, which version is correct? Italian Marines or the Kerala Fishermen? If India is on the right side, what stops us from taking the international view point in this regard? Asked by: Karthik

A. I don't know if India was right because it's not even clear the Italian ship was anywhere in Indian waters. I recall senior Indian naval officers saying that the ship was outside and the bureaucracy/politicians by pushing this forward would end up with egg on its face. That's what's happened.

Q. Has there been such an instance anywhere else in the world? Does the affidavit specify that the envoy is willing to let go of his immunity? How can the SC accept an affidavit from a person who enjoys immunity? Asked by: Priyank

A. The ambassador has lent himself as surety for the return of the marines, so he lays himself open to penalties. He no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity, from what one is given to understand. But what will the govt gain by sending the ambassador to jail.

Q. How can New Delhi and Rome cooperate to work out a solution which will be acceptable to both parties? Asked by: anurag

A. I don't know, you should ask a diplomat and a lawyer specialised in international law and diplomatic conventions. India has no leverage since the marines are no longer in the country. Then Italy has paid around a reported crore compensation to the families of the two fishermen. They are not complaining.

Q. How the matter can be resolved? Asked by: Jyoti

A. See my last answer.

Q. We don't have a special court setup to try them. Dint the SC actually show leniency towards the lapses of our Govt.Will the Govt act and help resolve? Asked by: S

A. What will the govt act and help resolve? If the govt has actually colluded in this, then this situation suits them entirely. If the SC colluded in this, then what is there left to resolve? The birds have flown, the cage is empty and we have ended up looking like a bunch of silly Indians.

Q. Could India have afforded to do what Italy have done if the situation was reverse? Asked by: rohit

A. India first of all doesn't have armed guards on its merchant ships. Also from what I'm given to understand, armed guards would have their weapons only when the ship is transiting the danger zone. There are no dangers of piracy in European (or Atlantic) waters. So am pretty sure this would not have happened. But if it did happen outside Italian waters, India would have to try the case. If otherwise, the Italians have jurisdiction.

Q. Do you think Italy would now reconsider its decision to send back the marines as the Indian SC has taken a tough stand that the Envoy has no immunity meaning there is a good chance that he could be sent to jail if they dont return by 22nd? Would this point not be a turning point? Asked by: Dr Jayaram

A. The Indian govt will be bound by the SC order but I wonder what would be gained by sending the Italian ambassador to jail. More likely he'll be sent back home and India will be without an ambassador until the outcry dies down.

Q. Don't you think the risk of its Ambassador going to jail is something serious for a host country and in its duty to protect its Ambassador won't Italy consider to surrender the marines? Asked by: Dr Jayaram

A. Italy would have done all its sums when it decided not to send the marines back. It knows the ambassador will be held liable. But I think India will be wary of setting a precedent and putting him in jail. Expelling him maybe the only real option.

Q. Are you aware of similar cases elsewhere in the would where an Envoy has indirectly submitted himself to jurisdiction of a friendly country's court and got himself put in Jail/someother punishment for not honouring his/her commitment to the court? Asked by: Dr Jayaram

A. Nope but you need to check with a legal eagle about that.

Q. No collusion at the SC - don't we need a charge sheet from someone competent for a trial as Kerala's case is quashed? Asked by: S

A. Hey check with a lawyer!

Q. Which country will be at more loss (economically and diplomatically) in the global arena if India cuts most of its ties with Italy seeing the current situation Asked by: rohit

A. Italy will lose business but India needs the stuff we are buying from Italy. Military stuff and a lot else. Both sides lose. I think it's in the interests of both sides not to go too far.

Q. The marine episode smack lack of logic. If the fishermen were considered to be pirates, what harm have they caused to the vessel? Moreover, what weapons were fired upon the vessel to provoke the marines to retaliate? Asked by: Emathew

A. That's the point. The fishermen were not armed. The implication is the marines just shot at them because they judged their ship too close and didn't bother to verify who was on board. Hopefully if there is a fair and credible investigation in Italy these facts will come out. What's clear is those marines don't deserve to remain in the Italian Navy.

Q. I would suggest that the Italian envoy be fined for taking the SC for a ride. We can't have envoys flouting our laws when they are agreeing to terms and conditions for delivery of justice? Asked by: Emathew

A. Depends on what the SC thinks. The Italian govt's decision not to send the marines back shows what it thinks of the Indian govt and the judiciary.

Q. Is it possible for the Indian Government to arrest Italian ambassador? Asked by: Rajan

A. Theoretically yes and I'm sure the govt would have gone over its options. Not sure what arresting him will solve. It will send an unpleasant message overseas and could encourage other countries to arrest Indian ambassadors. The Pakistan would love to do that.

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