New Delhi: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti rang up his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh Wednesday and warned him against setting a "dangerous precedent" with the jailing and prosecution of two Italian naval guards in India. The two leaders, however, agreed to resolve the issue in accordance with "law and spirit of friendship".
"The Italian prime minister condoled the deaths of the two fishermen and expressed regret at the incident," the external affairs ministry said here.
"The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of deepening relations between India and Italy and agreed that the issues that had arisen following the incident should be resolved amicably in accordance with law and in the spirit of friendship that characterises relations between the two countries," said the ministry.
"The two leaders said that they were looking forward to meeting each other at the forthcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul," the ministry said.
Two Indian fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, were mistaken as pirates and shot dead by the security crew of cargo vessel Enrica Lexie Feb 15. The two Italian Marines were subseuqently arrested for the shooting.
According to a statement from the Italian government, Monti reiterated the Italian stand that the incident took place in international waters.
"Any attitude from the Indian side that is not fully in line with international law... risks creating a dangerous precedent for international peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions," Monti was quoted as saying. "Missions in which Indian military are also involved," he stressed.
"The alleged incident -- the circumstances of which still have to be clarified -- occurred in international waters and jurisdiction is therefore only Italian," Monti also told Manmohan Singh, according to a government statement. Monti said he was following the case with "maximum attention and concern".
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi summoned India`s ambassador in Rome to condemn the imprisonment of two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fishermen, with New Delhi maintaining that they will be tried according to Indian law.
Terzi conveyed to India`s ambassador Debabrata Saha that the imprisonment of the two soldiers in a prison in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, ordered by a judge Monday was "unacceptable," the Italian foreign ministry spokesman said.
Amid growing outrage in Italy over the arrests, Terzi stressed that the preferential treatment afforded to Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are currently being housed in a separate structure within the prison, was "not satisfactory."
Terzi had visited India Feb 28 and discussed the incident with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna, but the two sides failed to resolve their differences, with Italy stressing that the incident should be tried according to international law.
In New Delhi, official sources said that Italy reiterated its view to the Indian envoy that Indian courts did not have jurisdiction to try the Italian Marines and stressed that they were entitled to immunity as they were fulfilling a "sovereign act" of protecting the ship against suspected pirates.
The sources in New Delhi said that India maintained since the case was in an Indian court, it was for the court to decide.
The sources added that vessel protection detachments, a term for military soldiers guarding the vessels, do not enjoy sanctity under global law.
The sources close to the developments also ruled out any discussion with the Indian government on any out-of-the-court settlement.