The Indian government continues to embarrass itself through repeated diplomatic bunglings.

Having already been slapped on the wrist by the Supreme Court for dragging its feet on the trial of two Italian marines, who had reportedly killed two Indian fishermen in Indian waters, the Indian authorities have now slipped up by displaying naivety and allowing the sailors to return home for the country’s elections — following which they have decided not to return.

The decision to allow the sailors, who were under trial, to return home, not once, but twice, seems absurd. Soft diplomacy seems to be New Delhi’s preferred form of engagement but often it can acquire a perception of weakness. The letter of the law must be applied firmly and unequivocably.

In retrospect, there is little that New Delhi can do except resort to posturing and indignation at the temerity of the Italian authorities, who flouted a written undertaking that the sailors would return to India to stand trial. At stake is the future of the family of the Indian fishermen who lost their lives. They might not get the justice they deserve. More importantly, the government has failed to champion the cause of its own citizens.