The Italian Marines And India’s Laughing Stock.
There is a popular saying in international law which goes like “International law is the vanishing point of jurisprudence”. To those of us who are not familiar with such legalese it translates into normal English as international law is where the law actually disappears. A law gets its power, its majesty from sanction or the power to enforce it. Do anything lese majesty, insult the law and you are apt to get a boot on your neck in the middle of the night and get hauled off on your ass to be locked-up. But in international law countries routinely cock-a-snook at the given law and get away with it. There is no fear of the law because there is no certainty of punishment. Any country can and does anything and there is nothing no one can do about it. Case in point- the Italian marines who merrily skipped bail and have made our entire India a laughing stock internationally. By now the whole world is laughing at us and people are watching what we will do, what India can actually do as a nation instead of just listening to the mumbled threats of our in-effectual prime minster. This is a make or break point for India’s prestige internationally.
For those who haven’t been following the news, the facts are these. At the height of the piracy scare, a couple of years ago, when the Italian ship Enrico Lexie was off the Indian coast and in Indian waters [inside India’s territorial waters – any act done is considered as done on Indian soil- that is INDIAN SEA IS INDIAN LAND as per Geneva Convention Of The Sea] the sailors on board the Italian ship shot and killed two Indian fishermen claiming they were pirates. The Italian sailors were arrested and tried by the Kerala court, but on pressure from the Italian government to the Indian government the cases were transferred to the Supreme Court of India where the cases are still going on. And then by the power of the Italian governments lobbying the Italian sailors who were in Tihar jail were allowed to go back to Italy to vote for their election, on a bail of a few weeks. Now the latest news is the Italians have jumped bail and the Italian government has refused to send them back to India.
This is shocking to say the least, this absolute perfidy, this volte-face by Italy which had previously swore good conduct for its sailors, standing guarantee to send them back to India at the end of their bail period. Now Italy, the country has broken its word. What a shame. This shame of the Italians in breaking their words is compounded by their complaining that they had asked for arbitration but India had refused saying the matter was in the courts (sub judice) and let’s wait for the court to pronounce judgment on the sailors in due process of law and then we will decide whether we need to compromise or not. But by this very act of running away instead of staying for the trial the Italians have confirmed that they are guilty. And by supporting their action the Italian government has absolutely disgraced itself. For now on if someone breaks their word after promising something then we can say that they have done an Italy. The new phrase for an Oath-breaker will be an Italian.
So what can India do now? India can complain to the United Nations Organization. There are a lot of people who say that the UNO is toothless because it has failed to prevent American wars of adventurism. For those UN- bashers let me ask one thing. Has there been a third world war? And did I somehow miss it? Hasn’t happened, right? The last world war was almost a century ago, before the UNO was formed. After we got the UNO it has somehow blundered its way into doing its primary job- preventing another all-out world war which alone makes the UNO a success in my view. For the rest it cannot be held responsible for the acts of the superpowers when it has no army of its own to back up its diplomacy.
India on the other hand is a nation which has an army, a powerful army, navy and air force to back up its diplomacy. But what use is the army when there is a totally inept government and an apathetic people. In any other country, imagine America , if such a grave insult happened to their country they would be stoning Italian restaurants and renaming pasta as parotta (remember how the French fries were renamed as freedom fries in America when there was a public spat between the USA and France?). Here we don’t care, we don’t care about our country and we don’t care about its prestige. Our patriotism is very narrow. It extends only to our cast, our religion, our country as a whole and not to the nation. That is why Maldives can tear up contracts by Indian companies, why Sri Lanka can do genocide on our borders, why the Chi-coms of China continue to execute hapless Tibetan monks daily and Bangladesh supports insurgents against India even after getting Indian aid. Not to mention the Pakistanis who behead Indians at every opportunity they get.
And the reason for this is in my opinion the lack of legitimacy of the present ruling dispensation where governance has been outsourced to a clique and the party merely presides. Before you accuse me of not being patriotic at this critical juncture let me clarify that my allegiance is to the Nation, the country of India as a true Indian and not to the government which survives by vote-cobbling in parliament. The state lives on forever, governments come and go. When we say we are true Indians, it means we support the nation not the Congress party or the Bharatiya Janata party or any other political party. The nation has to count for something if we are not to hang our heads in shame. Our nation has to stand up for itself despite inept governments and prove itself internationally to prevent becoming the joke of the world. Its time India grew some teeth to support its tongue. It’s time we showed the Italians and the world that India is a country not to be trifled with. But will we? I desperately hope so.
P.S. I must confess that I am not an expert on international law, but have picked up a few odds and ends from the dinner table conversation, sitting with a bunch of lawyers at home. My knowledge of law may be borrowed but the sentiments expressed above are my own.