Not planning large-scale request to U.K. for return of cultural property: Centre

India and the U.K. are in advanced stages of negotiating a trade deal.

Updated - May 14, 2023 09:07 am IST

Published - May 14, 2023 02:29 am IST - London / New Delhi

Queen Camilla of the U.K., wore a crown without the controversial Kohinoor diamond during her coronation alongside the coronation of Charles III.  Photo: Royal Household 2023 via Reuters

Queen Camilla of the U.K., wore a crown without the controversial Kohinoor diamond during her coronation alongside the coronation of Charles III.  Photo: Royal Household 2023 via Reuters

The government has denied that it is seeking wholesale repatriation of cultural property extracted by Britain from India during colonial times.

Reacting to a story, “India to force Britain into colonial ‘reckoning’ with treasure demands”, in the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper, the government said the headline and story were “unfortunately misleading”.

The Telegraph, on Friday, reported that New Delhi was preparing to make “the largest repatriation claim faced by the UK, on a scale that would dwarf Greece’s demands for the Elgin Marbles” and that Indian diplomatic and ministerial staff were being “mobilised” to secure “potentially thousands” of artefacts, including the Kohinoor diamond.

Government sources said that while it was seeking the restitution of artefacts taken from India, the story was a “significant overstatement” in terms of how it portrays the government and its approach to the U.K.

The story goes on to say, “It is understood the issue may spill over into diplomatic talks between the U.K. and India on matters such as trade.”

India and the U.K. are in advanced stages of negotiating a trade deal. Indian diplomats in London will file formal requests for the return of artefacts, starting sometime this year, according to the Telegraph story.

“It is also not true that Ministerial and Diplomatic resources are being mobilised toward securing the return of thousands of artefacts from the U.K.,” the government said, emphasising that its approach was to retrieve antiquities via “cooperation and partnership” and in a manner consistent with international agreements.

A source noted that the issue was part of the G-20 Culture Ministers’ meeting in India recently (India currently chairs the G20). The government responserefers to its approach as reaching for “low hanging fruit”, such as working on the return of manuscripts from the U.K.

“India remains committed to work with international partners in building holistic and cooperative ties, in which our shared history is an important pillar, but not the only one,” the government’s response said.

Just over a week ago, Queen Camilla of the U.K., wore a crown without the controversial diamond during her coronation alongside the coronation of Charles III.

While Buckingham Palace attributed the use of another crown to “sustainability and efficiency” reasons, the crown with the Kohinoor was set aside, reportedly, because of the offence it would cause, especially in India, as a reminder and symbol of a painful colonial past.

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