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Crisis With Italy


 The two Italian marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone – were sent to jail in Kerala for the killing of the two fishermen.  Italy has called this imprisonment “unacceptable”.

On the 15th of February, when the Italian tanker Enrica Lexie’s guards opened fire and killed two fishermen from Kerala, it triggered a diplomatic row between India and Italy.  The reason for killing: Mistaken identity.  The two marines stationed on the tanker mistook the two fishermen for pirates and shot them.  This happened on the waters of kollam coast in Kerala.  Last year, when the crew of the Italian merchant ship was taken hostage by the Somali pirates, the owner of the tanker had to pay a heavy sum of money to release the crew, and since then all the Italian merchant ships have armed guards – most army personnel -- to protect them from the pirates operating in the international waters.
 The investigating parties from both sides are engaged in a war of words because the version from both sides differs in terms of time of the shooting and the position of the ships from both the countries.  Indian coast guards who rushed to the site say that the ship was 32 nautical miles off the coast of kollam when the Italian tanker ran into them and made that cold-blooded killing.
 The UNCLOS (United Nation Convention of the Law of the Sea) says that the territorial waters of a country are around 12 nautical miles, and they have jurisdiction over that vast body of waters.  A further 12 nautical miles called ‘contiguous zone’ is added with the jurisdiction. The article 109, according to UNCLOS, says in this zone countries can conduct investigations and enforce their laws.   The Italian tanker and the Indian fishermen met in this zone on that fateful day.  Armed with the article 109, Indian authorities rounded up the Italian tanker and arrested the two marines who were responsible for killing.  But, Italy says that the case should be handled by them; since their ship was in the International waters (not true) and that the two personnel (marines) involved come under immunity against arrest because the Italian law conforms to the UN anti-piracy policy.
 Immediately after this row, Italy had dispatched its deputy foreign minister, Staffan De Mistura, to plead and deal with the unfortunate situation.  India, on the other hand, is adamant because the two personnel acted on their own without the consent of their captain and that the tanker did not report the killings; only after the Indian coast guard intercepted them and took them to kochi, they found out about the killings.  Moreover, the Italian tanker did not fire any warning shots or perform any evasive maneuvers to ascertain whether the large boat carrying the fishermen were indeed pirates.  Moreover, the fishermen had no weapons and, at the time of the incident they were asleep.  An Indian officer who was present at the scene said, “It seemed as though the Italian crew acted in panic or in complete disarray”.  Another interesting observation the Indian Officer made was that the Italians used flash lights when it was approached by an Indian vessel.
 On Sunday, the Italian foreign minister spoke to Saurabh Kumar, the Indian embassy’s Charge D’affaires, and expressed deep concern about the Indian authorities’ decision to send the two marines to jail in Trivandrum, Kerala.  He said such measures are unacceptable given the status of the servicemen and that those two marines should be moved somewhere more adequate.  
 This incident is sure to damage the relationship between India and Italy.  Indio-Italian bilateral trade has touched 17 billion, and it is expected to rise with deeper engagement between these two countries.

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