New Delhi: Italy is not the first country to have taken advantage of the Indian government's "decency" in refusing to return its accused men for trial, and the plea to allow the two marines to fly back to Rome to vote could have been a ploy being hatched for some time, say two former envoys to that country.
Italy has refused to send back its marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, to India to face trial for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year, mistaking them to be pirates.
This is not the first case. In 1998, two French nationals had been arrested off the Kerala coast on suspicion of ocean survey espionage. The two men were put on trial and were allowed to go back to visit their homes after the French government gave an undertaking in court that they would return.
"They never returned... Take the case of Kim Davy (the Purulia arms drop case prime accused from Denmark)," said former diplomat Rajiv Dogra, who retired as the country's ambassador to Italy.
"They (countries) are taking advantage of the decency of the Indian government," Dogra told IANS.
"Last year, a US warship killed an Indian off the coast of Dubai and injured two-three Indians seriously. Nothing happened in the case," he reminded.
"It is for India to act strongly for only then they will stop taking advantage," said he.
He suggested two options that India could pursue. "India could declare them (marines) offenders and could scale down diplomatic contact with Italy. It is for the government of India to decide."
According to another former envoy K.P. Fabian, it was wrong of Italy to go back on its personal word to India and the Supreme Court that the marines would be sent back.
He said with Rome set to have a new government in the next few days the current government probably wanted to bring the affair "to a conclusion before it leaves office".
He also suggested that the Italian government could have made up its mind not to return the two marines when it filed a plea in the Supreme Court to allow them to fly back to Rome to vote in the elections.
"It seems they had made up their minds to do it..There is no real reason to ask India for permission to allow them to be taken to Italy for voting," Fabian told IANS.
"The request indicates planning was going on for some time," added Fabian.
He said it was difficult to say what the implications of the diplomatic stand off would be. "India has responded in fairly strong terms. Let’s see what Italy has to say."
He said India might have to wait for a new government to come in Rome to get a "real response" to the situation.
"And it will be difficult for the new government to change course due to domestic and emotional issues involved," he said.