Indian PM warns Italy over marines dead fishermen case

Indian warship alongside the Italian cargo vessel The shooting incident in February 2012 heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries

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India's prime minister has said "there will be consequences" unless Italy returns two marines charged with the murder of two fishermen in Kerala.

In unusually strong language, Manmohan Singh said that Italy's refusal to send back the marines was "unacceptable".

Rome's decision has come as a huge embarrassment for the Indian government and opposition parties have been demanding their immediate return.

On Tuesday, India summoned the Italian ambassador in Delhi to lodge a protest.

Start Quote

Manmohan Singh

There will be consequences for our relationship with Italy”

End Quote Manmohan Singh Indian prime minister

Italy for its part has asked India to set up a meeting of diplomats in order to reach "an amicable solution".

The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen dead in February 2012. They said they mistook them for pirates.

India's Supreme Court allowed Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone to go home to vote in last month's Italian elections. The marines were ordered to return within four weeks.

But on Monday, Italy informed India that the marines would not be coming back, leading to a diplomatic row between the two countries.

"Our government has already made it clear that these actions of the government of Italy are not acceptable," Mr Singh told the parliament on Wednesday morning.

"They violate every rule of diplomatic discourse and call into question solemn commitments given by an accredited representative of a government.

"This can not, by any standards, be in the interests of any bilateral relationship that has to function on the basis of trust," he said.

The prime minister warned that if "they do not keep their word, there will be consequences for our relations with Italy".

Italy argues that because the case is now the subject of international maritime law, it had been decided that the pair would not return to India "on the expiration of the permission granted to them".

Rome says that it wants its nationals to be tried in Italy, saying the incident took place in international waters and that the Indians do not have jurisdiction in the case.

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