"A stitch in time saves nine", goes a saying.
The good relations that India and Italy have been enjoying for decades almost kissed the dust over the recent diplomatic row in connection with the two Italian marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen.
Rome last week conveyed to New Delhi that it would not send back its marines to India for further trial, causing a furor in India and leading to exchange of words between the countries. It was even speculated that the countries would cut off all the diplomatic ties with each other.
Everything would fall into place now as Italy has decided to send back the two marines to India for further trial. However, it is obvious that both the countries committed blunders that could cause irreparable damage to its international relations.
The two marines are expected to reach New Delhi on Friday with the country's Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura on a military special aircraft. They are expected to be tried in a special court set up by the Supreme Court. It is even speculated that the accused would serve their jail term in Italy if found guilty, as there is an agreement between the countries for the transfer of prisoners.
Naval officers Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were arrested for the alleged murder of two fishermen off the Kerala coast on 15 February last year. They were allowed to stay in Italy for a period of four weeks, which ends on 22 March, by the Supreme Court of India only on assurance by the Italian envoy that they would be sent back to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic after the completion of the stipulated time.
In an unexpected turnaround last week, Italy conveyed a message to India that it would not send back its marines to India for further trial, causing furor in India.
Then the Supreme Court ordered Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini not to leave India till the next hearing on 2 April, after Italy went back on its commitment to send back the two marines for further trial. This move of the apex court was criticized by Italy and the European Union, claiming that New Delhi has broken the 1960 Vienna Convention that guarantees immunity to ambassadors.
BLUNDER COMMITTED BY ITALY
A possible diplomatic breakdown has been avoided but it is obvious that both the countries - Italy and India - committed blunders.
Italy's biggest blunder was breaking the trust of the India government and its apex court. Its decision not to send back its marines to India was like a punch on world's largest democracy.
Italy challenged the decision of the Supreme Court to try the accused in India, claiming that they should be tried at home since the incident took place in international waters.
However, the assurance given by its ambassador Daniele Mancini that the marines would be sent back to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic after the completion of the stipulated time, should be kept. After all, it was a goodwill gesture from India to allow the duo to go home for voting.
Italy could have requested India to let the accused serve jail term in their home country if found guilty instead of doing it through the backdoor.
BLUNDER COMMITTED BY INDIA
It looks more like a case of an emotional outburst in the case of India. The government and the Supreme Court felt let-down when Rome conveyed last week that it would not send back its marines to India. The pressure from the opposition party too was huge, forcing the government to act in haste to repair the damage.
The biggest blunder that New Delhi committed was not its decision to allow the accused marines to leave the Indian shores but preventing Italy's envoy from leaving the country.
The Supreme Court ordered Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini not to leave India till 2 April in connection with the refusal of the Italian marines to come back to India, arguing that there was no immunity for any person who comes to court and gives an undertaking.
However, according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, diplomats are given immunity and thus Mancini cannot be pulled up by the court, detained or restrained from leaving the country.
Article 31 of the convention says that a diplomat shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, except in matters that are not on behalf of the sending state.
Going by the 1961 Vienna Convention, India's Supreme Court can pull up Mancini only if Italy allows or gives permission to do so.