After three weeks of tit-for-tat moves over the Devyani Khobragade affair, India and the US have started working towards normalising strained relations, with New Delhi on Monday saying Indo-US ties were not a “one-issue” relationship.
Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin indicated at a media briefing the Centre’s intention to move beyond the Khobragade issue. “The Indo-US relationship is not a one issue relationship… we have a series of issues… the relations are extremely broad and wide-ranging,” he said.
It is also learnt that the top levels of the government have decided to repair the damage through some “feel-good” events, one being the handing over of three stolen Indian artefacts by American officials to the Indian Consulate General, D Mulay, in New York this week.
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Akhbaruddin said US Home Security officials would hand over the sculptures on Tuesday. The artefacts include a sandstone sculpture of Vishnu and Lakshmi, a sandstone sculpture of Vishnu and Parvati and a black stone figure (Bodhisattva). The artefacts are together valued between $1.5 to $2 million.
Sources said this event will be showcased as a display of cooperation between the two sides. Giving details of the investigations that led to the artefacts, sources said that in April 2009, the ASI reported the theft of a “Vishnu and Parvati” sculpture from the Gadgachh temple in Baran district of Rajasthan. In September 2009, an additional police report documented the theft of a sandstone sculpture depicting “Vishnu and Lakshmi.”
The investigations revealed that both sculptures were allegedly shipped to Hong Kong. The “Vishnu and Parvati” sculpture was then sent to New York, while the “Vishnu and Lakshmi” sculpture was first sold to a dealer in Thailand, and then to a dealer in London prior to its exhibition in New York in 2010.
In March 2010, American Special Agents recovered the “Vishnu and Lakshmi” sculpture as it was being processed for exportation from New York to London, while the “Vishnu and Parvati” sculpture was recovered on July 12, 2010 in New York by Homeland Security officials. The Bodhisattva figure, suspected of being smuggled into the US, was seized on July 7, 2011 by the CBP, Newark, and the HSI, New York.
Sources said the last cultural property repatriation to India was in 2006 when American officials returned a 9th century stone idol that was stolen from a temple in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, in 2000.