Italian envoy barred from leaving India, government reviews ties

New Delhi :┬áIndia’s apex court Thursday restrained the Italian envoy from leaving the country following Rome’s refusal to send back its two marines to face trial for killing two Indian fishermen, even as the government said it was reviewing “all aspects” of its ties with Italy.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said Daniele Mancini could not leave India till March 18 without its permission.

The apex court also issued notice to the Italian government, its ambassador and the two marines. Mancini had given the assurance to the court on Feb 22 that the marines would return after voting in the Italian elections.

A day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Italy’s refusal to send back the marines was “unacceptable” and Rome will have to face “consequences”, the external affairs ministry said it was reviewing bilateral ties.

“We have initiated a study of our interactions with Italy,” the ministry spokesman told the media here.

“At the end of that internal process, we will take further action that is appropriate taking into account all aspects of our relationship… Based on that study and as the situation evolves, you will see our response.”

India and Italy are locked in a huge diplomatic row over marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, accused of killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala, mistaking them to be pirates.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence, said everything would be done to ensure that the “dignity and primacy” of India was preserved.

Asked if India would act against Ambassador Mancini, Khurshid said: “We will.”

India’s new envoy to Italy, Basant K. Gupta, who was to take charge this month, has not gone to Rome. He was to succeed Debabrata Saha, who retired in December.

The posts of ambassador and of consul general in Milan are currently vacant, a source told IANS.

A decision on whether Gupta would be sent to take up the new posting would be taken after the review, the source added.

India is firming up its legal case against Italy.

India also briefed the European Union on Thursday about the developments, another source said.

On March 11, the Italian embassy had informed that the two marines would not be returning, setting off a diplomatic storm.

According to a source, the Italian government has not communicated with India since March 12 when Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned Mancini to South Block.

Mathai had conveyed to him “in the strongest terms” India’s disapproval of the Italian decision and demanded that the two marines return to India.

But Italian Foreign Minikster Giulio Terzi said in Israel Thursday that it had “solid reasons to proceed in the direction of international arbitration” for not sending back the marines to India.

“The Indian government is amply apprised of all it needs to know about our reasons, as do many of our partners,” ANSA news agency quoted him as saying.

Responding to Italian argument that it wanted international arbitration, the spokesman said Italy would have to abide by the promise it made to the Supreme Court.

“The first step in terms of inter-state relations or international public law is that agreements ought to be respected, and we expect Italy to (do that).”

Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and wants to get Latorre and Girone tried in its courts. India says the shooting took place in its Indian territory.