New Delhi, March 22: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Friday said diplomacy has done its work and secured the return of the two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen, to India to stand trial.
“We have a confirmation that the Italian Government is arranging for the return of the two Italian marines within the time frame permitted by the Supreme Court,” Khurshid said in a statement in the Lok Sabha.
“I am glad that the matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion and the trial of the marines will now proceed as per the directions of the Supreme Court in its order of Jan 18, 2013,” he said.
Earlier before entering parliament, the minister told reporters: “You shouldn’t write off diplomacy too soon. At least one can say diplomacy continues to work when every one else thinks everything else has failed. Please give diplomacy a little more chance to do what needs to be done.
“The diplomacy that we do under this government is obviously given a direction by the prime minister and the Congress president, it is the government that is led by them. For anyone else among us to take credit for it would be unbecoming,” he said.
The minister added that the Supreme Court can be informed about the development next week as per legal procedures.
Khurshid said in the statement: “The Italian requests for diplomatic or expert-level meetings to consider the issue of jurisdiction or referring the case to arbitration or any other judicial mechanism cannot be accepted.
“I have made it clear that the Republic of Italy is bound to honour the solemn commitment that it has made to the Supreme Court to ensure the return of the marines to India within the time period permitted by the Supreme Court”.
Earlier, the external affairs ministry had announced that the marines would return.
“Following diplomatic contacts, Italy informed that Marines will return to India in accordance with timeline provided to Supreme Court,” external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.
In another post, he said: “Intensive diplomatic contacts in last 24 hrs led 2 Italy informing that Marines will return as per time line set by Supreme Court of India.”
Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini had given an undertaking to the Supreme Court that the marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone – would return to India by March 22 after voting in the Italian national elections.
Following this, the court had Feb 22 permitted them to leave India to vote in the elections, with the promise that they would return in four weeks.
But on March 11, Italy informed India that the marines would not be sent back, leading to a diplomatic stand-off. Following this, the Italian ambassador here was restrained by the apex court from leaving India for reneging on his word.
The marines, posted aboard oil tanker MV Enrica Lexie on security duty, had Feb 15, 2012, opened fire at a fishing boat off the coast of Kerala, suspecting that the boat carried pirates. Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, were killed in the firing.
Italy’s refusal to send back the two marines had caused a political storm in India with opposition parties slamming the government for its handling of the issue.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had then assured that the government will do “whatever needs to be done” to bring back the two Italian marines.
UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had termed Italy’s refusal as “outright unacceptable”.
“No country can, should or will be allowed to take India for granted,” she had told Congress MPs March 19.