New Delhi: Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday said the Home Ministry is seeking inputs from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and several other ministries in a bid to resolve the Italian Marines’ case.
Indian prosecutors allege the two Indian fishermen were shot by two Italian marines serving as security guards on an Italian-flagged oil tanker, the Enrica Lexie, about 20 nautical miles off Kerala in February last year.
The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are awaiting trial on charges of murder.
Their Indian lawyers say their clients mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired warning shots into the water. The two marines do not admit killing anyone or aiming directly at the fishing boat.
Khurshid said all agencies were working together and the Home Ministry would take a view based on that.
“I am afraid that there is a need for further reflection by different involved agencies and ministries so that the home (Interior) ministry can then get everybody’s inputs. We tried to give our inputs today but the law ministry and the NIA, other agencies will give their inputs and then the home minister will take his view,” he said.
The incident is the first known fatal shooting involving military personnel on a commercial vessel. It has shone a spotlight on the loosely regulated, nearly two-year-old practice of placing private and military armed guards on ships as protection against pirate attacks.
The case navigates uncharted legal waters. Maritime experts say it is the first test of whether military personnel enjoy sovereign immunity aboard commercial vessels, who should authorise the use of lethal force – the ship’s captain or the commander of the security team – and how far out to sea a country’s laws can be enforced.
The Enrica Lexie case has soured relations between India and Italy. Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi quit in March after his government returned the marines to India for trial, saying he was stepping down to protect the “honour of the country, of the armed forces, and Italian diplomacy”.
India arrested the marines when their ship berthed at an Indian port several days after the incident. It allowed the men to return home to vote in Italy’s general election in February but Rome then refused to send them back, infuriating New Delhi. Italy reversed its decision after the Indian Supreme Court said the Italian ambassador to New Delhi would be barred from leaving the country.
The Italian government has said that the shooting took place in international waters and that the marines should be tried at home. The Indian government says the marines killed unarmed fishermen on the outer edges of what it says are its territorial waters.