India is planning a diplomatic campaign to reclaim thousands of treasures including the Koh-i-Noor diamond, it is reported.
Govind Mohan, secretary for the Indian ministry of culture, said returning antiquities would form a key part of India’s policy-making.
“The thrust of this effort to repatriate India’s artefacts comes from the personal commitment of prime minister Narendra Modi, who has made it a major priority,” he said.
Diplomats in London will make formal requests to institutions to return artefacts seized as spoils of war or collected during colonial rule. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has already been contacted.
Ministerial and diplomatic staff will be mobilised in a “reckoning with the past” according to the Daily Telegraph.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was hailed as a “living bridge” to Indians in the UK by Mr Modi after he was made Tory leader.
It is understood that their goal is to secure the return of the Koh-i-Noor, which is one of the Crown Jewels held in trust for the King.
The 105-carat diamond once topped the Mughal emperors’ Peacock Throne. It was held by Indian rulers before being handed to the East India Company and then given to Queen Victoria after the annexation of the Punjab.
The gem was used in a crown made for King Charles III’ great-grandmother, Queen Mary, at the time of George V’s coronation in 1911.
Queen Camilla wore the Queen Mary’s Crown during last weekend’s Coronation, but the diamond did not feature in it.
The British Museum is expected to face claims for its collection of Hindu statues and the Amaravati Marbles. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Indian collection will also be subject to claims.
These museums are bound by law to keep their collections intact, potentially putting India at odds with Westminster, which has refused to countenance changing legislation to facilitate similar claims, such as the case of the Elgin Marbles.
It is understood charities will be approached first as they are able to repatriate objects, and the National Trust could legally hand over Indian artefacts.