New Delhi: Even as the government credited its deft "diplomacy" for Italy returning its two marines to stand trial for murder, the opposition Friday said it was the pressure it created that made the difference.
"I believe the BJP and all opposition parties succeeded in raising the issue forcefully and played an important role. Seeing that, and the unity of the country, Italy decided to send the marines back," Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh told reporters.
"India gave the marines permission to go to Italy to vote, but they dared to say we will not let them go back. But when Italy saw the whole of India united and angry over the issue, they changed the decision," he said.
The BJP's 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."
Taking a similar stand, Communist Party of India 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," Dasgupta said.
"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.
The two Italian marines facing trial for killing two Indian fishermen last year off Kerala coast are headed back to India, the government announced Friday.
Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini had earlier given an undertaking to the Supreme Court that the marines would return to India by March 22 after voting in national elections there, but on March 11 Italy informed India that the marines would not be sent back, setting off a diplomatic row.
The marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, posted aboard oil tanker MV Enrica Lexie on security duty, had Feb 15, 2012, opened fire at a fishing boat off the coast of Kerala, suspecting that the boat carried pirates. Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, were killed in the firing.