New Delhi: The vanishing Italian marines should mark the end of our age of innocence about the world. Indian governments take legal undertakings, treaties and anything stamped so seriously they forget there is also a real world out there. In that world killers abscond, ambassadors lie for their country and the gullible punished.
Frankly I am not surprised that the Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone won’t be back in India to face trial for the killing of two Kerala fishermen. They were allowed to escape in broad daylight and with full honors.
This is the Congress Party’s “Kandahar” moment – a truly embarrassing episode where both the executive and the judiciary have been had by a bunch of Italians. It appears neither the law ministry nor the foreign office gave any hard nosed advice to the Supreme Court on violations, rights of states, diplomatic fallout, possibilities and the need to put real value on Indian life.
It is a joke that India first allowed the marines to go home for Christmas and then again to vote! When you kill and are on trial, you lose the privilege of having nonna’s cake on Christmas and chug an espresso in your neighbourhood café with old chum Vittorio. Similarly, the two should have voted at their embassy instead of New Delhi being oh-so-kind and sending them back to Italy to exercise their democratic right.
The Italian ambassador did what most ambassadors do in the service of their country – lie. This should not come as a shock, but it seems to have taken all of Delhi by surprise. Satirist Ambrose Bierce famously said that diplomacy is “the patriotic art of lying for one’s country”. It is also defined as “letting someone else have your way.” Ambassador Daniele Mancini may have to go home at the very least but he would wear that as a badge of honour.
But I wonder if the Indian Supreme Court would accept a similar affidavit by say, Pakistan’s ambassador or China’s ambassador? I suspect not. Then why after hundreds of years of the wiliest deceptions unleashed by westerners, do we still think they honour Indian law? Is this our “fair and lovely” complex gone wild?
What happens next? India can punish Italy in several ways. It can raise a stink in the European Union – the world’s most expensive talk shop. It can put Italy on the black list for future military contracts. It is time to give a bit of a kick to a country that has begun to do “dada giri” in India simply because we married into it.
Wait. I forgot we are a soft power. We will adjust.