Italy's snub, a consequence of India's soft image

25-Nov-2017

Posted 13 Mar 2013

Italy’s undiplomatic act of refusing to send back two of its marines facing trial in India on charges of killing two Kerala fishermen allegedly in Indian waters is a direct consequence of India’s image as a soft state.

If India believes it is a regional superpower and demands such a treatment in the comity of nations, it needs to act like one if the international community is to take its claims seriously.

For a nation that increasingly hesitates to assert itself even against a tiny neighbor such as Sri Lanka, and does not muster the courage to question that country for wantonly killing and shooting at its fishermen, the Italian snub should not come as a surprise.

Sri Lanka to this day harasses and beats up the hapless fishermen from Tamil Nadu. The Indian Navy has not been able to protect our fishermen from the Sri Lankan navy, who continue with their brutal ways ignoring appeals from New Delhi.

India says it does not want to behave as a big brother towards its neighbors. It remains silent when Sri Lanka whips up the Kashmir card in the context of the upcoming vote on the US-backed resolution at UNHRC and urges India to vote against the resolution.

India is yet to respond to Colombo’s Kashmir threat. India may not be a perfect democracy, but the situation in Kashmir or in any part of India can certainly not be compared to the anarchy that is Sri Lanka. Why has no Indian official warned Sri Lanka against raking up Kashmir or if a warning is not India’s style, why even a rejoinder has not been issued?

The Indian foreign ministry is comatose and is being run by a bunch of officials, who lack the skills needed for the job. The problem is compounded by the fact that India’s political leadership is in a far worse condition.

India needs a leader like Indira Gandhi, who created Bangladesh. It was during her time that India gave arms training to several Sri Lankan Tamil groups on Indian soil. The shrewd politician that she was, Indira had understood the Sinhalese mindset and decided there was little hope of the minority Tamils receiving equal rights in Sri Lanka.

Indira had plans to carve out an independent Tamil nation out of Sri Lanka. Had she lived longer, she would have achieved her objective long back.

On the stand-off with Italy, India has to get its act together. Going by reports, it is a shame that Indian officials had not even acknowledged a request from the Italian government to settle the matter amicably at the diplomatic level.

This incident needs to serve as a wake-up call for the Indian government to seriously review India’s image as a nation.

In diplomacy, much like the relationship between individuals, countries size up the strengths and weaknesses of each other and study their past responses to similar situations before formulating a strategy to tackle a crisis.

That India has a shoddy record in getting justice for its fishermen, who get killed by foreign navies, may not have escaped Italy’s attention.

  • Saturday, November 25, 2017