Wednesday 13 March 2013

Foreign diplomacy, why India has learned so little from past

Foreign diplomacy, why India has learned so little from past

The Italian Job

Once again India was snubbed right across the cheek, this time by the Italians.  The two Italian Marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are accused of killing the the Indian fishermen, Ajesh Binki and V Jalestine, off the coast of Kerala in 2012.  The court case against them was going on and in between they requested to visit their home country Italy to vote in the elections(a very flimsy reason to believe).  The Supreme Court of India granted them permission to return home for four weeks to vote in last month's general election, ONLY if they returned.  Based on the undertaking given by the Italian government through its Consul General here in India, they were allowed to return to Italy where they jumped the coop.

After returning home and enjoying their stay, the Italian government has refused to let them return to India to face the trial. The reason given by it flimsy and irrational.  The Italian government says that the Indians did not seek diplomatic solution to the problem.  

Since when did killing a person in cold blood become a diplomatic issue.  I think murder is a  cold blooded murder anywhere in the world, in Italy too.  But Italy thinks differently and has cornered the Indian government.  The government of India already sulking from all the scams and corruption charges has now to deal with this issue.  

Foreign policy has always been a bane for India.  Except for the period when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of the country, the foreign policy has been a messy affair with foreign countries always snubbing India.  The Indian government acted quickly when the situation in Maldives got out of hand following the arrest of ex-President of the country.  It had to send 7 Indian Navy frigates into bullying the Maldives government to let go Nasheed.  Maldives is a small country in the Indian Ocean but same cant be done with Italy.  

Back in 1996, two Frenchmen were arrested off the coast of Kerala on charges of espionage.  They had anchored their yatch, Galathee to presumably snoop around.  They were arrested and the case was going on when in 1998 the the French Government requested the court to let the two Frenchmen Francois Clavel and Elle Philippe to return to France for some flimsy reason.  The Court allowed them to return and they never came back to India, despite issuing red corner notice with the Interpol.

Italy seems to have studied this case very hard and is intent on repeating the same procedure.  But is Italy to blame?  

There are two points which have to be mentioned here.

1.  The period of trial in India is unforgivably long.  This gives the accused Indians and foreign nationals to escape the long hands of law.  It has been known that criminals jump parole during the trial period.  If you look at Bitti Mohanty case you will know what I am talking about.  In both the above cases, the arrests took place at least two years before and the trials are still going on.  If India had a fast track court to deal with such matters, the sentence would have been pronounce a long back and Italian government would have had no chance of making a demand for them to return.

2. The political will of India especially in foreign policy matters is very lacklustre.  If the Italians would have done the same with China, the results would have been fast track trade sanctions, total blockade of Italian goods and Italian nationals, arrests of Italians still in China and other iron willed strategic moves.  Therefore no western power, even the United States of America, messes with China for they know they are dealing with a very powerful state who just doesn't give a damn for foreign relations and calls spade for spade.  India on the other hand is still seen as a weakling and a post colonial era country with no firm foreign policy in sight.

Can the Indians impose trade sanctions against Italy, cancel the lucrative Italian contracts which are going on in the country?  No they cant.  Can they arrest some Italians in a quid pro quo policy?  No they cant because Indian foreign policy is just to lame to take any serious action.

Having said that, the UPA government has been cornered yet again and this time it will be difficult for them to escape the ire of the Indians who may see this as a insult to the sovereignty of the country and the courts of India.  This also has to be looked through the eyes of the relatives of the slain fishermen, they want justice for the cold blooded murder of the fishermen in question.  

Please write in your comments regarding what you think should be done.

Vijay Prabhu

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