An unprecedented crisis hit India-Italy relations today, with the Supreme Court asking Daniel Mancini, the Italian Ambassador in New Delhi, not to leave the country till he explained why the two marines allegedly involved in the murder of two Indians had not returned from his country.
The court had allowed the two marines to go to Italy for elections there but directed they return within four weeks. It asked Mancini, the guarantor for the marines, to provide on Monday an affidavit explaining his government’s position. He was, however, exempted from appearing in person.
As a representative of his government, Mancini is not obliged to take directions from any other government.
The court’s directive came after Attorney General G E Vahanvati said the government was “extremely concerned” about the breach of a promise made to the nation’s highest court.
“We have initiated a study of interactions with Italy and will take an appropriate decision. The entire expanse of our interaction is being reviewed. Appropriate decisions will be taken after that. Italy must abide by the agreement signed,” the external affairs ministry’s spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, amid demands for Mancini to be arrested, declared persona non grata and shipped back home.
Congress sources said his arrest was “wholly unlikely”, but declaring him persona non grata was possible.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met the PM to discuss how the matter could be resolved, as the Congress-led government in Kerala put the blame squarely on the Centre.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party launched an attack on the PM. “The job the PM had committed (himself to) in the House is being done by the court,” BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, adding there couldn’t be a more “laughable situation” for the country.
There also was a buzz the external affairs ministry had summoned European Union Ambassador Joao Cravinho. However, an Embassy official told BS: “The ambassador has not been summoned. This is routine exercise. The matter is purely bilateral.”