New Delhi: Hours after the Italian government refused to send back its marines, facing trial in India for allegedly killing two fishermen, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday termed Italy’s decision as unacceptable.

The Prime Minister in an assurance to the Left parties said that he will ask External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to take up the issue with the Italian government.

In a surprise development, the Italian government said on Monday night that the two Italian marines Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone will not return back to India.

Recently, the two were granted permission by the Supreme Court to go to Italy for four weeks to vote in general election held last month.

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The Italian marines were charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year in an anti-piracy operation. Last time they were allowed to go home for the Christmas holidays after which they returned back to India on the expiry of their leave.

The Italian Ministry claimed India had not responded to its requests to seek a diplomatic solution to the case and there was now a formal dispute between the two countries over the terms of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. Khurshid said the government is studying Italy's decision, its reasons as also implications. "We will study and take a rightful position... We will take informed position," he told reporters on the issue which is very sensitive in Kerala politics.

We will study Italy's decision and take a rightful position: Salman Khurshid
Italy's decision is not at all acceptable. I am reaching Delhi on Tuesday night. I will take this issue up with the External Affairs Ministry. We are also looking to take up this issue legally. It has always been the firm position of the state that the marines have committed a criminal offence within Indian borders and they should be tried in India under the Indian laws: Kerala CM Chandy
This is betrayal and bluff by the Italian government. It is a breach of trust between two sovereign nations and the act is completely unacceptable. Indian government should take every step to retrieve the fugitives immediately and conduct trial under Indian laws and in Indian courts: Rajiv Pratap Rudy
We charge the government with diplomatic collusion on this issue. The whole incident appears to have been scripted. Italy is a democratic country and not a banana republic. The Indian government must prevail upon Italy to hand over the two marines: Prakash Javadekar
We are dealing with foreign diplomats within the framework of the established diplomatic conventions and norms: Ashwani Kumar
This is nothing but a conspiracy at the highest level and the Indian government should see that they bring back the two marines to stand trial in the case in our country: Wife of slain fisherman Gelastine

Meanwhile, CPI(M) MP MB Rajesh said, "We met the Prime Minister and took up the issue of Italian marines. The Prime Minister told us that he came to know about this from newspapers. He assured us that he will ask the External Affairs Minister to look into the matter."

A delegation of MPs from Congress-led UDF also met the Prime Minister separately. MPs from Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Kerala Congress (Mani) were also part of the delegation. Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the Ministry of External Affairs and his ministry will consult each other and "make sure that we proceed ahead as effectively as we can."

He observed that "there are complications" as the issue relates to a foreign country. "We are dealing with foreign diplomats within the framework of the established diplomatic conventions and norms," Kumar said. At the same time, he emphasised that the government needs to ensure that Indian laws and court processes are "respected by foreigners".


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