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India US Cultural Property Agreement

18th July, 2023 History

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  • In a recently agreed Cultural Property Agreement between USA and India, both countries agreed to work towards preventing illegal trafficking of cultural artefacts.
  • The total of 105 stolen cultural artefacts would be transported to Indian from USA.

Other Details

  • The Indian Consulate in New York hosted the repatriation ceremony and the process to transport antiquities to India would be started soon.
  • This agreement was materialised last month during PM Modi’s state visit to the U.S.

Earlier Initiatives

  • Earlier, during Modi’s visit to U.S., 16 artefacts were handed
  • In 2021, 157 such artefacts, belonging to 11th CE to 14th CE, were handed over to India.
    • They represented Hinduism (60), Buddhism (16) and Jainism (9)
    • Out of rest, 45 belonged to the Before Common Era
  • In 2022, a total of 307 antiquities were returned by U.S. valued over $4 million.

Cultural Property Agreement

  • It is a tool to prevent illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts.
  • It will include a Designated List of archaeological materials which will be used for import restrictions.
  • It has an aim to protect cultural heritage and to reduce the incentive for further pillage of archaeological and ethnological material.
  • It made not permitted activities unlawful which are associated to excavate, remove, or export cultural objects.
  • Once in force this bilateral agreement would impose import restrictions of designated objects into the United States except limited circumstances.

Need for Agreement

  • India has lost roughly 10,000 major works of art every decade since the 1950s.
  • Between 1992 and 2017, some 4,408 items were allegedly stolen from monuments across India.
  • 30-40% of looted Indian art and artefacts are in USA.

Significance of the agreement

  • It will strengthen the India and USA relation.
  • The coordination between Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies in India and USA will be improved.
  • It will help in preservation and protection of cultural and living heritage.
  • It will curb the illegal trafficking of such artefacts.
  • It will also improve the emotional bond between the two nations.
  • It will enhance cooperation on the protection and lawful exchange of cultural property.
  • It will help dismantle the smuggling network.

Cultural Importance of these 105 Artifacts

  • These artefacts have a widespread geographical origin thus represent the geographical diversity of India. They belong to following regions -
    • 47 are from eastern India.
    • 27 are from southern India.
    • 6 are from Northern India.
    • 3 are from western India.
    • 22 are from central India.
  • They were created during 2nd-3rd century CE to 18th-19th century
  • They are made of various materials such as terracotta, stone, metal and wood.
  • Around 50 out of 105 artefacts have religious significance.

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Cultural artefacts have a great significance for India’s culture and living heritage hence should be protected from illegal trafficking. Discuss. Also, in light of India-U.S. cultural property agreement, mention how illegal trafficking of such artefacts could be checked. (150 words)