The Indian Flexibility

Many of us were proud when the Italian Government capitulated to the strident demands of the Indian Government and sent back the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala early last year.

While there were many factors involved in the backroom diplomacy which went on relentlessly between the two countries, it was a keenly watched event all around the country. Not the least reason for the same was the test that it provided to Indian diplomacy to prove itself, after so many setbacks over the years when it came to dealing with the well-being and life protection of Indian citizens. India has traditionally been week in that department, and the less said, the better.

In the case of the Italian marines, it would be the Indian Government which would have succumbed, had the Supreme Court of India not been involved. As we all know, the Supreme Court of India has taken many key decisions whenever the Government did not act in the interest of the people of India. The Supreme Court has been the saviour for many folks and institutions over the years by taking a proactive stand in matters affecting public interest.

In this case as well, the Supreme Court of India acted suo moto on the developments. When it learnt that the Italian marines would not be coming back to stand trial in contravention of the undertaking given by the Italian Government via its Ambassador to India, it took a clear step prohibiting the Italian Ambassador from leaving India until further orders.

Would the Indian Government ever do that ? OK, it is given that the Indian Government cannot act against the Vienna Convention on diplomatic rights of unfettered movement and other rights of diplomats. But even symbolically it would not have done something which would seriously upset the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

I am not referring to speeches made by the Prime Minister or other ministers in this regard. I am referring to well thought-out actions by the Government – it is all in the execution, isn’t it ?

Well finally the Italian Government sent back the marines and they are cooling their heels in the Italian Embassy in Delhi. Let us see how things go from here. It would still be a test for the Indian Government, given its links to Italy.


Vijay Srinivasan
30th March 2013


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