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Govt to bring back 150 Indian artefacts from US in next 6 months

About 150 Indian artefacts would be returned to the country by the United States in the next six months, according to a senior official.

Addressing a press briefing ahead of the third G20 Culture Working Group meeting here, Secretary in the Culture Ministry Govind Mohan said India has discussed the 1970 convention extensively among all the countries. "We are trying to develop a broad consensus that all these G20 countries should at least become signatories to the convention and certainly, India would be a big gainer from this process," he said.

The 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property urges the parties to take measures to prohibit and prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

Mohan said bilaterally also, India is working with countries like the United States.

"If you have seen the joint statement of the Prime Minister's visit to the United States recently, there is a mention about a cultural property agreement between India and the United States, where the United States will do everything within the government's power to intercept smuggled goods at the borders and return them expeditiously," he said.

"We expect to get about 150 such artefacts from the United States over the next three to six months, which would be more than 50 per cent of all the artefacts that have been returned to India since independence," he added.

Responding to a question, Mohan said the issue of restitution of cultural property, both bilaterally as well as through G20, is gaining traction.

"We are happy to report that we will have some consensus, some broad-based agreement on how this whole process has to be taken forward," he said.

He said India is holding bilateral talks with other countries too in the matter.

"We are trying very hard to convince the United Kingdom to have this kind of an understanding with us. We will now also broach this with countries like France, Italy and Australia, where we will try to bring back the artefacts displayed in their museums that have gone from India over the last several years," Mohan said.

He said the matter is being pursued both bilaterally and multi laterally.

"Our diligent efforts have finally taken us to a place where this whole thing has become part of the language of the Prime Minister's joint statement. We are not there yet with respect to the other countries. But with the US having accepted this kind of a framework, we are hopeful that other countries will also look at something similar, if not identical," he said.

The 150 artefacts that will be returned by the US also include some from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York.

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