New Delhi: The two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast returned New Delhi on Friday after India gave an assurance that they will not face death penalty nor will they be arrested, bringing to an end a raging 11-day diplomatic row between the two countries.

READ MORE: No death penalty for marines: Khurshid

Italians furious over marines’ return
The marines, Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, arrested in connection with the killing of the fishermen in February last year returned late Friday evening in the company of Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura in a military plane. The dramatic u-turn by the Italian government, which had earlier last week said the two marines would not be sent back, enabled the marines to meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court when it gave them permission to go for a month to vote in the elections there. With the Supreme Court acting tough and restraining the Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country, Italy sought and got assurances to enable the marines' return.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who denied any deal was reached on the issue, told Parliament that Italy had sought "clarifications" on death penalty and other issues which were a matter of "concern" to that country. "It (Italy) sought from India clarifications regarding the conditions applicable to the marines on their return and the provisions regarding the death penalty that could be applicable in this case which was an Italian concern.
"Notwithstanding the pending proceedings, the government has informed the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within the time frame laid down by the Supreme Court of India," he said.
India also allayed Italy's fears by saying that "according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard," Khurshid said.

Return of marines welcomed
Meanwhile, the Government and the Opposition sparred over who gets the credit for Italy sending back its two Marines to India to face trial, a decision welcomed across the political spectrum.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his part said he was happy that the "integrity and dignity" of the Indian judicial process has been upheld.
Relieved by Italy's decision, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said it clearly established the fact that no country can question the sovereignty of India.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid credited Government's diplomacy for the return of the marines to face trial in the killing of two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast last year. "I can certainly say we have been in constant contact. I have repeatedly said that you should not write off diplomacy too soon. So at last I can say that diplomacy continues to work when everybody else thinks that everything is lost and please give diplomacy a little more chance to do things that are important for our country," he said. "The MEA was in the forefront." Khurshid said he found it difficult to concede that the Opposition contributed to the resolution of the diplomatic standoff between India and Italy. "I find it difficult to accept that postures and positions taken by Opposition leaders could have contributed to this," he said. At the same time, he acknowledged that the Supreme Court's position too helped resolve the crisis.

Slamming the government for claiming success of diplomacy for the return of marines, BJP and other opposition parties insisted that it was only due to Supreme Court pressure that the Italians had relented.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, "Today is the day of the rule of law in India. Italy is sending the two marines back. It is due to the strictness shown by the Supreme Court that the two marines who used to go back for Christmas and voting in the elections have been called back.” He further said, "Khurshid is taking credit for this. Mastermind of the Mumbai blasts Dawood Ibrahim is still in Pakistan. Why does he not bring them back? Even the Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed is there. Government should bring them back.”
BJP maintained that though it did not wish to do politics on such an issue, the fact is that had there not been Supreme Court pressure, this would not have happened.
"This government has been doing politics of appeasement in the country and is now doing it on the international for as well," Hussain said, adding that the return of the marines was a "victory" of the apex court.

Another BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: "It was the combined effort of all opposition parties. The opposition persuaded the government, which then worked out a tough stand."

CPI(M) MP from Kerala K N Balagopal said Italy's decision to send back marines was the victory of "the collective effort of the Indian people, Parliament and judiciary".

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "If the government's diplomacy succeeds and BJP takes credit, I have no problem. But, ultimately it's the government's diplomacy which has succeeded."

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the government alone could not take the credit for the return of the marines. "It is good Italy is sending them back, but the government cannot take the full credit," he added. "The Congress can garland itself if it wants, but the truth is that credit must be given to public pressure, the pressure created by parliament, international pressure, and also to the stand the Supreme Court took," he said.

Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said India's tough stand, articulated by the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson, has led to the decision to send back two Italian marines. "The Prime Minister and the UPA chairperson articulated government's tough stand against Italy and it has worked," he said. "We worked in tandem with the Supreme Court. That is why the marines are returning. Opposition should congratulate the government," he further said. "It is a victory of the Prime Minister and the Supreme Court and I think it is an opportunity (for opposition) to understand that you cannot run diplomacy by shouting and screaming," he said.
Slamming BJP, Union Minister Veerapa Moily said it always makes politics out of everything. "You have to leave it to law of the land to take its own course instead of claiming credit or disclaiming credit which is not on," he said.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said Italy's decision to send back its two marines is a victory of India's Constitution, judicial system and diplomacy. "We have always maintained that our judicial process is free and fair. Italian government has agreed to send marines back to India and this is also the victory of government's foreign policy," he said.


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