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Marines row: Action against Italy may have consequences, says Salman Khurshid

Salman KhurshidNew Delhi : External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said India has not downgraded its diplomatic mission in Italy over Rome’s refusal to send back two marines for a murder trial in India. He said action against Italy would have to be considered keeping the implications, such as economic ties, in mind.

“Decisions cannot be taken in vacuum. One has to look at the implications, the intensity of the relationship in the past and the attitude that other countries will take. Any decision of this nature involves sacrifices as well. If one has to take a stand, one has to be ready to pay a price for it,” Mr Khurshid told NDTV, explaining the government’s cautious approach.

Amid the diplomatic tension, airports across the country have been alerted to prevent Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving India. The decision was taken by the Home Ministry a day after the Supreme Court ordered that the envoy must stay in India at least till Monday, when he has been asked to explain Rome’s refusal to return two marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone – to face trial for shooting dead two Kerala fishermen in February last year.

“We would, obviously, in the right time, given the information we get from the court finally decide what we need to do,” Mr Khurshid said.

The Supreme Court had allowed the two marines to go home to vote in Italy’s national elections after Mr Mancini gave a written assurance that they would return for the trial. On Monday, Italy informed India that the men would not be sent back.

Italy says that its decision was taken after India ignored its offer for diplomatic negotiations and because New Delhi does not have jurisdiction over the case.

The marines were guarding an Italian tanker off the Kochi coast in February last year when they say they mistook two fishermen for pirates and shot them. Italy claims the shooting took place in international waters; India disagrees.