ROMA – The marines are going back to India, but the storm continues to rage over the Farnesina. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is convinced, however, that it’s all to the best. “The situation is returning to normal and we’re not sending our military personnel into danger or an unknown fate. They’re not at risk of the death penalty”.
Minister, was it worth raising the tension with India, to the point of a deep and serious diplomatic split, when we’ve now been forced to send them back?
“I think it most definitely was worth it. Without that split we wouldn’t have been able to negotiate the current conditions with the Indian Government. Better conditions for their everyday life in India, and a guarantee that the death penalty – the maximum punishment for the crimes they’re accused of – won’t be applied. We have no more concerns on that point”.
Attilius Regolus [Roman general and consul who fought in the Punic wars] returned to Carthage, and met a very bad end. Don’t you feel responsible for making them go back?
“No, not at all. Conditions were different in the case you cite. Roman Law was in force and Carthage didn’t apply it. We’re acting in a framework of international laws that must be respected. We are confident that that will happen”.
What’s changed with respect to two weeks ago?
“The tension ramped up, concerns were expressed over the safety of our Ambassador, the case took on an international dimension, with the UN and the EU also involved. We continued to take every possible action and that enabled us to verify certain aspects of the case with the Indians. I believe that bringing our marines back to Italy and announcing that they wouldn’t be going back had the effect we expected, outcry excepted. Moreover, the steps taken by the military and civil lawyers also demonstrated that, from the point of view of the Italian justice system, Rome isn’t just standing idly by”.
That may be so, but the fact remains that the two marines are now returning to a country that wants to try them for murder. A crime for which, in extreme cases, the penalty is death. How did you break the news to them?
“I personally didn’t speak to them, the Prime Minister did. I spoke to their families. I think we spoke about it at home. They know they have the support of the Italian Government and Italy’s commitment to ensure that the situation is resolved in the best possible manner. We want to bring our two riflemen home. It must be clear that our efforts don’t end here. We’ve now opened a channel for diplomatic and judicial communication with India. Communication that can now get off to fresh start based on the principle of mutual respect between our two countries, as the UN asked on more than once occasion”.
Do you think that’s enough to put their minds at rest?
“I repeat, we need to view things in a different light now. In our opinion, our previous concerns no longer apply. The agreement with India envisages that, by its nature, this case is no longer classed as one that could attract the maximum penalty envisaged by their legal system”.
The decision was taken today at a cabinet meeting that, according to some sources, was somewhat heated
“I can tell you that the ministers at today’s meeting had different feelings on the matter. But everyone worked hard to find a just solution that would also restore normal diplomatic relations with India and give us clear guarantees on the fate of our riflemen. I think everyone played their part”.
Many commentators have been calling for your resignation, especially today, when the decision to make a U-turn came out
“I don’t see any reason for that. We’ve been working hard in recent months to find diplomatic and judicial means to resolve the question. Resign? I’m part of an out-going government. And if we’re talking about resigning, then some people have been calling for my resignation since the Enrica Lexie [the ship the marines were serving on] docked at Kochi. Exploiting the situation with argumentation that I find utterly unjustified”.