Date: 01/04/2013


KOLLAM, March 31, 2013

Ignatius Pereira

The kind of support that the Italian government continues to extend to the marines, Massimilano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, has evoked a sense of awe among many in Kerala.

They are facing murder charges for shooting and killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012.

The general perception was that the Italian government’s support for the marines was just initial enthusiasm and it would wane.

But finding that the backing had remained consistent, even gaining strength, many here ask whether the Indian government would have acted in a similar manner if its defence personnel had found themselves in a similar situation.

Ravi’s stance

Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said the Italian government was doing what a responsible government would do and there was no doubt that the Indian government too would act likewise had any of our defence personnel been in a similar situation.

He said he appreciated the Italian government’s support to its marines.

Former Chief of Indian Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta said the support being given by the Italian government to its marines was “extraordinary”.

It showed that they took great care of their citizens, especially when serving personnel got involved in cases like this while on duty.

The question whether the Indian government would act similarly in a similar situation was hypothetical, he said.

K.N. Balagopal, Rajya Sabha member and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said Italy’s support to the marines was something that had to be appreciated.

“That support smacks of an agenda not to respect the sovereignty and judiciary of our country. It reflects the colonial attitude of the European countries,” he said.

The marines were not on military duty when the incident occurred since they were protecting a commercial ship. Therefore, the Italian government’s support to the marines was debatable.

A model to emulate

Former Union Minister and BJP leader O. Rajagopal said he did not see any fault in the kind of support the Italian government extended to the marines. It should be a model for the Indian government.

“Very often the stand taken by our government in similar situations is very unfortunate. The attitude seems to be apathetic. And in this particular issue our government is yet to put its foot down and ask Italy to start respecting the law of our land,” he said.

‘Uncaring’ attitude

T. Peter, secretary of the National Fishworkers Forum said all Italians could take pride in the support their government extended to the two marines.

“There is no precedence to show that the Indian government had acted similarly. The BRICS summit provided an opportunity for our Prime Minister to present the facts about the killing of the two fishermen at an international forum. But he failed and this shows the kind of uncaring attitude of our government towards the fishing community who acts as eyes and ears for the nation while out at sea,” he said.