Italian envoy summoned over turban row (Lead)

March 23rd, 2011 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) A day after golfer Jeev Milkha Singh’s coach was forced to remove his turban a second time at the Milan airport during a security check, India Wednesday summoned the Italian envoy to express its “great unhappiness” and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the government treated an insult to a Sikh as a national insult.

Italian envoy Giacomo Sanfelice Di Monteforte was called to South Block at about 4 p.m. Wednesday by the Ministry of External Affair’s Secretary (West), Vivek Katju.

“He (Katju) conveyed our great unhappiness at this very serious incident. He asked the ambassador to transmit our strong feelings to the Italian authorities, at the highest level, so that there is an appreciation of the significance of the turban for the Sikh community and the Indian nation,” said a press note.

Amrinder Singh was made to take off his turban at the Milan airport last week, after which the Italian envoy had expressed regret.

However, the same officer once again made Singh remove his turban on his return journey Tuesday.

The senior Indian diplomat asked for “necessary sensitivity” to be shown, and drew attention to Krishna’s remarks in parliament.

“Whenever there is an insult to Sikhs, we take it as a national insult. We take it up in that spirit,” Krishna said in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday morning after the issue was raised by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader S.S. Ahluwalia during zero hour.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting in South Block, the Italian ambassador said the matter was “very disturbing”.

“Already been brought to the highest level in Rome and Milano. Investigation is on to ascertain facts and responsibilities. To this, personally I add my deep regrets,” Di Monteforte said.

The ministry release quoted the envoy as telling his hosts that “security guidelines have to be implemented keeping religious sentiments in mind”.

Earlier in the day in parliament, Ahluwalia had asked agitatedly, “What is the use of the Italian envoy’s regret… what is the use of lip service?”

Krishna assured the members that the matter will be taken up with Italy.

“Italy is very dear to our country and India is very dear to Italy… but these incidents occur,” he said.

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