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Delhi worried Rome won’t welcome envoy

Basant Gupta was supposed to report in Rome on 15 March, but his appointment has been put on hold.

SUMAN SHARMA  New Delhi | 16th Mar 2013

ndia has decided not to send Basant Gupta as its ambassador to Italy, because it wants to wait and watch how the situation develops in the wake of Rome refusing to send its marines back to this country. Delhi is worried that the Italians will not receive the Indian ambassador once he reaches there. India has not had an ambassador in Rome ever since the retirement of the incumbent Debabrata Saha on 31 December 2012. Gupta's credentials were forwarded in January 2013. They were accepted by Italy after about two months and he was cleared to report in Rome on 15 March. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson S. Akbaruddin confirmed that Gupta would be in India, until any further orders were given.

An Indian diplomat told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, "Since there was talk of sending the Italian ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini home and declare him persona non grata, India has decided to wait and watch. If Mancini is sent home, the Italians can reciprocate by sending back our charge d' affaires. Also there is apprehension that the Italians will refuse to receive Gupta. That is why the Government of India has delayed the appointment."

Presently, Srinivas Gotru is officiating as the charge d' affaires in Rome.

However, the absence of an ambassador could raise diplomatic tensions between India and Italy. Relations have got slightly heated between the two countries ever since news broke about the VVIP helicopter scam involving Italian arms major Finmeccanica. India requested Italy six times to share the latter's findings on the bribery in the Augusta Westland copter deal, but Rome refused to share any papers.

Last month the VVIP helicopter controversy also broke out, in which Italian arms company Agusta Westland was allegedly accused of bribing Indians.

A retired diplomat said that a situation has never arisen where once a host country clears the credentials of a diplomat, it does not welcome him later.

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