The country’s Supreme Court and political executive have been publicly humiliated by the Italian government’s decision not to return two of their marines to India for standing trial in the murder of fishermen Ajish Pink and Valentine.
If India quietly watches, there will be more foreign governments going down the Italian route. A state that can’t ensure the implementation of the orders of its highest court can only be seen as an effete one.
The West tells the Rest that they must play by the rules. In trade, migration, extradition, copyright, climate change, contracts, whatever areas they can think up. But when it comes to their own interests or nationals, they often sing a different tune. After all, how can you weigh the lives of two poor and very dead Indian fishermen and two healthy Italian marines who were on ‘sovereign’ duty? You can’t, can you?
There are bound to be many legal twists and turns in this case. But about one thing we can be pretty sure. That Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone aren’t going to return to India to stand trial for murder in an Indian court—whether special or ordinary. If they were to return, the Italians would never have said anything about keeping them at home.
One can be sure of another thing. That the Italians have thought this thing through—they must have anticipated the response of the Indian government and courts—and thought they can get away with it. After being craven in their submissions to the Supreme Court, which had been so considerate towards them, they took a considered decision to defy it.
Their foreign minister also publicly informed the world that the whole government—from the prime minister down—was behind the decision to let the marines flee the custody of the Supreme Court.
“By the very nature of things, it is likely to take some time for matters to move ahead in the present case,” the Italians submitted before the SC on February 11. It’s clear that they have realised how slowly everything moves in India, and that we aren’t very keen on bringing offenders to justice. The SC had asked the Centre to set up a special court to try the two Italians on January 18, but that is yet to happen, with government departments debating about whose job it is to set up the court. In the one year since the shooting, the Italians have seen how our courts and the executive behave at close hand. One obvious thing is despite the sensitive nature of the case, there has been no urgency in taking it forward, a matter stated up front by the Italians.
And what about the government of India? What are the consequences for India-Italy relations that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of in Parliament? Will there be any?
For starters, the Italian ambassador in India, Daniele Mancini, who has proved that a diplomat is an officer sent abroad to lie for his country, should have a very short tenure. Mancini presented his credentials to the President in February, so he should have no trouble in moving on to another assignment. He’ll possibly be rewarded with a plum job by his masters. Of course, there will be repercussions if India were to declare Mancini persona non grata. But, by downgrading our relations, India would have sent a clear signal to Rome and other world capitals—you can’t get away with defying judicial orders.
The Italians can be expected to respond. An Indian diplomat is yet to take up his assignment as the new ambassador to Italy. So, New Delhi doesn’t need to send an envoy to Rome for a while. Of course, the Italians can retaliate by sending back the Indian deputy chief of mission. Both nations can play the game.
Sometimes, it’s important to play it. For your national honour and what you stand for. To prevent your country and courts from becoming a laughing stock, to ensure that judicial orders carry authority. Many mistakes have been made. The Supreme Court must bear the burden of being naive. It, perhaps, went along in good faith, believing the assurances of a foreign envoy.
But there’s time to lick our wounds and learn from our mistakes. For the moment, do what you can: send the Italian ambassador packing.
(Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He’s on Twitter @abaruah64)
Apropos Amit Baruah’s What the Romans Do, for a journalist to be railing in such a provincial, thoughtless, amateurish way reeks of unprofessionalism. Hello, Mr Rip van Winkle, this is the post-colonial era, the white guys are long gone and geopolitics is not the same. This is garbage, I expect more pithy, perceptive stuff from Outlook.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Was it a well designed ploy of Maino to expel the Italian Ambassador and how S Swami sabotaged the ploy. Read this story from A J Akbar.
How Italy could flipflop, that too after the country's Ambassador gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court. One reason I visualise could be India's image as a corrupt country. Our image as a law abiding country has taken a severe beating in the aftermath of unearthing of scores of scams involving thousands of crores. There is a growing image in the international community that in India 'sub kuch Chalta hai', despite Indian Media being hyper active. We need to build our image as a country where law is respected and abided.
Indian government has absolutely no options left except start ww III. That's not going to happen, I am sure. It has behaved so irresponsibly that it is beyond belief. If it believed the italian duo to be guilty of murder , how and why were they even allowed home leave ? How many murder undertrials get this benefit ? None! If the govt. believed the duo to be blameless or their actions an accident that calls for a lenient approach, why did they press murder charges in the first place? This whole thing is very fishy indeed and reeks of collusion in high places. More than Italians it is our own establishment that's insulting the Indian people and has totally let down the poor murder victims .
WHAT kind of jouranlism is this! Jeez, man, it's one thing for a public citizen to expect his/her government to behave in a certain way. But for a journalist to be railing in such provincial, thoughtless, amateurish way reeks of unprofessionalism. Also, as another writer/commener pointed out, It's also strange how Mr. Barua takes a different tack from his positions on Pakistan. Just like a brown saheb! hello, Mr. Rip van Winkle, this is the post-postcolianial era. The white guys are gone a long time ago and the geopolitics is not the same. India may well have a case and the Italian behavior doesn't look smart. But that's not waht I'm talking about. I expected more perceptive, pithy stuff from Outlook and I'm really disappointed at this garbage.
We definitely will not take the insult lying down. We will take the insult standing up. A country which did not take the beheading of its two soldiers seriously will not take this insult seriously.
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