On arrival at Cochin yesterday from Rome where he had gone to attend the Conclave to elect the Pope, Mar George Cardinal Alencherry said that the Italian Marines who are to face trial for the killing of two Kerala fishermen last year should return to India and submit themselves to the Indian Judiciary. That has happened.
After the tumult and the shouting, and trying to defy the Supreme Court of India, the Marines are back. But judging by the past conduct of the Italians, we should not be surprised if they come out with some absurd defence. For instance they could claim that they were trying to shoot into the sky to test the guns and hit the Indians by mistake.
Well, it is a question of guns and shooting and aim. Swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth in a Court of Law also could be as suspect as the accuracy of the shooting. After all, Italy’s military history is not all that great. It is probably the most invaded geographic area in the world.
It is said that every time the Italians are beaten in a war they got married to the women from the victor’s side and the process went on repeating. Even in modern times Italy has not learned winning ways. Of course they did beat the push-over Ethiopia in the 1930s. That is about all.
The point I want to establish here is that a good soldier should be a man of honour. Since I don’t know Italian, it is not possible for me to say whether there is a word equivalent to ‘honour’ in that language. An Ambassador trying to shy away from a solemn oath does not paint the picture of admiration.
German Field Marshall Albert Kesselring once said, “It is an established fact that the Italian armed forces have not fought convincingly and successfully either in World War I or II.” He also said, "The training remained superficial, without having reached a satisfactory level. One only has to closely watch a simple changing of the guard procedure to arrive at this judgement. The Italian soldier was not a soldier from within". (The quotes are from The Italian Military Enigma by Major Eric G. Hansen, U. S. Marine Corps.)
Geographically too, the Marines seem to have been way off the mark. Enrica Lexie shot and killed the two fishermen on February 15, 2012 off the Kerala Coast. I have not been able to locate any authority stating that it is High Risk Area (HRA). No Somalian piracy has been reported from there. According to reports, the Marines did not follow the proper procedure of informing the Indian Authorities.
However, to be fair enough, during the first three months of 2012, there have been three more cases of mistaken identity happening along the West Coast of India. Warning shots were fired but fortunately no one got hurt.
According to sources, over 300,000 fishing boats operate along the coast of India. Great care has to be taken by the Masters of the big vessels and the fishermen to avoid tragedies. Recently there have been two or three cases of collusion along the Kerala Coast.