ROME: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called his Indian counterpart Manomohan Singh on Wednesday, warning him against setting a "dangerous precedent" with the prosecution of two Italian naval guards in India.
"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 to Singh. "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 jursidiction is therefore only Italian," Monti also told Singh, according to a government statement. Monti said he was following the case with "maximum attention and concern."
Singh reportedly told Monti that he wanted "to avoid tensions between India and Italy" and that he would look into the possibility of "a transfer of the two naval guards from prison to a place of custody more suited to their status."
Italy's government has been heavily criticised for its handling of the escalating row, which started last month when the soldiers deployed to guard an oil tanker allegedly killed two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates.
The two, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, have been imprisoned in the southern state of Kerala pending a murder investigation despite pressure from Italy for them to be handed over to Italian authorities for prosecution.
Italy argues India does not have jurisdiction in the case as it involved an Italian-flagged vessel and occurred in international waters near India. India disputes this, saying the incident happened in waters under its jurisdiction. Foreign minister Giulio Terzi has accused India of infringing Italy's sovereignty and summoned India's ambassador to Rome on Tuesday after a court in Kerala ordered the two marines be held in prison.
In apparent reference to the case on Wednesday, Terzi said that the principle of immunity and national jurisdiction in the case "is widely recognised but needs to be stressed."