In an event attended by India's Ambassador to the USA Taranjit Singh Sandhu, American authorities announced the repatriation of 105 antiquities, spanning a period from 2nd-3rd Century CE to 18th-19th Century CE, to India.
Days after PM Modi's trip, some of the valuable Indian antiquities were handed over at the ceremony held at the Consulate General of India in New York in the presence of Ambassador Sandhu, Consul General Randhir Jaiswal and officials from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
Addressing the ceremony, Sandhu said the antiquities being repatriated to India are "not just art but part of our heritage, culture and religion."
Sandhu said when this lost heritage returns home, it is received with a lot of emotion. The antiquities will soon be transported to India.
The 105 artifacts represent a wide geographical spread in terms of their origin in India - with 47 from Eastern India, 27 from Southern India, 22 from Central India, 6 from Northern India, 3 from Western India, an official release said.
"Spanning a period from 2nd-3rd Century CE to 18th-19th Century CE, the artifacts are made of terracotta, stone, metal and wood. Around 50 artifacts relate to religious subjects [Hinduism, Jainism and Islam] and the rest are of cultural significance," it said.
During Prime Minister Modi's State Visit to the US last month, the Indian leader had thanked President Joe Biden for helping the return of these cultural properties.
Sandhu voiced gratitude to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, Homeland Security officials and other agencies for their commitment and efforts in helping getting many artifacts back to India.
"To prevent illegal trade of cultural property, India and the US have agreed to work towards a Cultural Property Agreement. This will further strengthen the collaboration between our agencies and it will make it harder for the smugglers to evade laws."
Sandhu added that the return of cultural heritage is a clear expression of goodwill of our friends and partners in the US.
"This is the result of our mutual respect and close cultural exchanges. The return of the stolen artifacts also provides a deep sense of satisfaction to the Indian diaspora," he said, adding that this becomes another bridge for them connecting their adopted homeland to their motherland.
"The objects displayed around us are a demonstration of India's cultural wealth, diversity and religious traditions. Our artists have created some of the finest pieces of art," Sandhu said, adding that efforts to repatriate the artifacts is a "salute" to the great talent of those artists who created "such fine works even in the pre-machine age."
He said that some of the artifacts being repatriated will be installed in museums, some in the places where they were uprooted from and "each will enrich our lives in their own special way."
Jordan Stockdale, the Chief of Staff from the Manhattan District Attorney's office said that for more than a decade the agency along with Homeland Security has investigated trafficker Subhash Kapoor and his coconspirators for illegally looting and selling artifacts from across the world.
Stockdale said last year the US had repatriated more than 300 antiquities to India. "Yet we still have more than 1400 recovered objects that we have yet to officially repatriate."
"We are deeply appreciative to Prime Minister Modi's kind words the other week at the White House and they reflect the close collaboration which has led to successful recovery of 1000s of Indian antiquities. We will not allow selfish traffickers like Kapoor to rob countries of their precious cultural heritage," Stockdale said.
India has been making concerted efforts to bring back stolen Indian antiquities, the living symbols of rich Indian heritage and culture, from abroad.
In recent years, there has been close cooperation on restitution of antiquities between India and the US, the release said.
During Prime Minister Modi's 2016 visit to the US, 16 antiques were handed over by the US side. Similarly, in 2021, the US government handed over 157 artifacts which returned to India following the visit of the Prime Minister to the US in September 2021.
With these 105 antiquities, the US side has handed over a total of 278 cultural artifacts to India since 2016, it added.