Sonia Gandhi: No country should take India for granted

Congress president Sonia Gandhi today finally broke her silence on the Italian marines issue and sent a stern warning to Italy, saying no country should take India for granted.

Her warning comes a day after Italy accused India of violating laws on diplomatic immunity by preventing its ambassador from leaving the country, in an escalating row over two marines who skipped bail while on trial for murder in New Delhi.

Italy has always maintained that since the alleged incident happened in international waters, Italian courts have jurisdiction in the criminal case. India however, thinks otherwise.

The two marines were scheduled to return to India on 22 March, but shortly after they went to Italy to cast their vote in general elections, the Italian government said that the marines would not return, and that the death of the two fishermen was now officially an international ‘dispute’ between the two countries.

On Monday, the Supreme Court extended a travel ban on the Italian ambassador until further notice, sparking a debate on diplomatic immunity and deepening the tensions between India and Italy.

“You went to Italy after giving an undertaking. We never expected and we never believed that the Italian Ambassador will renege like this,” the bench observed, adding that the court had lost faith in Italy.

The order barring the envoy from leaving the country was extended to 2 April when the case will again come up for hearing.

Both Italy and the European Union have responded by telling India that it needed to abide by the Vienna convention that guarantees diplomacy for foreign ambassadors. The Ministry of External Affairs has said that they are aware of their obligations under the convention and that it had not been breached by India.

Italy’s actions generated outrage across the political spectrum with the issue being brought up for debate in Parliament where the opposition said that the constitution and highest court of India had been insulted.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also termed Italy’s behaviour to be ‘unacceptable’ and said that there would be consequences for Italy if the marines were not sent back to India to face trial.

Meanwhile, Gandhi also said that India is fully committed to the cause of Lankan Tamils and an impartial inquiry should take place into the allegations of atrocities against them.