Italy and India diplomatic row continues to rage

The diplomatic row over the killing of two Indian fishermen at sea continued to rage today after Italy failed to convince India to allow the case in which two of its marines were charged with murder to be taken out of a Kerala court.

New Delhi stood its ground saying the law will take its course in India during the discussions between the visiting Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura, who rushed here on Wednesday morning, and Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur.

Rs 25 lakh bank guarantee

Simultaneously, Italy also moved the Kerala High Court for quashing the murder charges against two of its marines in the killing of the fishermen off Kerala coast last Wednesday and asked the owners of the merchant vessel to deposit a Rs 25 lakh bank guarantee.

The ship will be arrested until the guarantee is furnished in the case filed by the wife of one of the dead fishermen seeking a Rs one crore compensation from its owners.

"As far as the law point is concerned, they have their interpretations and we have our interpretations...So as far as we are concerned in India, we certainly will go by our law," Kaur told reporters after the over an hour-long meeting in Delhi.

Italy's Mistura said there was an agreement on three points, but Kaur denied having reached any understanding.

"The only agreement is that the law will take its own course," she said.

Putting forward Italy's position, Mistura maintained that the incident took place in 'international waters'.

"This tragic incident needs to be analysed properly and we can continue having a proper dialogue about finding a solution to it," he told reporters. At the same time, he said the ties between the two countries are 'very important for all of us'.

In Thiruvananthapuram, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government would go ahead with prosecution of the two Italians, saying 'it is the right and power of the state'.

'The marines are the best'

Also, the commander of the Italian navy's landing forces defended the two soldiers saying the chance of them making a mistake were 'very remote'.

"They are elite soldiers, the best we have," counter admiral Pasquale Guerra said in an interview with Italian daily Il Giornale on Wednesday.

"They are experts because they have taken part in all our main foreign missions... The chance of them making a mistake is very, very remote," he said.

The tanker was sailing from Singapore to Egypt when the incident took place on Wednesday off the coast of Kerala.

Guerra said Latorre and Girone would have been very familiar with procedure when their ship is approached by a fast-moving small boat.

"These types of situations have been played out again and again during training for the past 20 years. Nothing is left to chance," he said.

"All the procedures are repeated. From the radio call to the flashing of the Panerai reflectors. In an extreme scenario, first you show your weapon, then fire it into the air, then fire in the water," he said.

Italy's defence ministry has said the Indian fishing boat behaved aggressively and was repeatedly warned before shots were fired. It said the officers fired warning shots and the boat left 'with no obvious damage'.

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