British Prime Minister David Cameron visit to India took an embarassing turn when he refused to return the real jewel in the British crown which was looted from India by the East India Company and became part of the British Crown jewels in 1877, Cameron was not in India to right past historical wrongs but to seek a new Indian jewel for the British economy.
David Cameron’s visit to India has attracted much media attention in the UK but for sections of the Indian media old questions remain regarding the theft of India’s diamond, which became part of the British Crown jewels and remains an important marker to determine whether the British government has truly altered its relationship with India.
When asked by local NDTV news channel whether he would return the diamond, Cameron responded “What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, then you would suddenly find the British Museum empty. I know there is a great argument about the original provenance of the Kohinoor diamond, but I am afraid to say it’s going to stay put.”
Cameron’s refusal to return the stolen diamond, a 105 carat gemstone mined in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and taken by the East India Company to furnish the collection of British Crown jewels questions the very basis of whether British government relations with India has really changed.
One thing he is right about however, is that if the British government were to return every stolen item from their past colonial conquests the British Museum would indeed be empty.
In November 2008, an article by Andrew Johnson for The Independent UK, reported how the Ethiopian president wrote to British museums regarding the return of over 400 treasures looted by British troops in 1868, including an 18-carat gold crown and more than 300 sacred manuscripts that are priceless and hold deep spiritual meaning for the Ethiopian people.
Ligali, a Pan African human rights focused non profit voluntary organisation, spoke about the theft of Nigerian artifacts. On the website it says “The location of the treasures of the Benin kingdom-fractured, now span the globe, the majority of which having been sold by the Foreign Office to both private collectors and museums across Europe and North America…”
Ligali also said that “It is estimated that the British carted away in excess of three thousand items from the Benin kingdom. This is why the FESTAC mask, the Benin bronzes and the many ivory ornaments and figurines that are on display in the museum‟s lower ground ‘Africa’ section represent just a small fraction of the total African artifacts stolen and brought to Britain.” (Ligali: 30 March, 2008)
Cameron’s Con for India
The British economy was built on theft of other people’s resources and the exploitation of people in Africa, India and Asia and if Cameron really sought a new relationship with India or any other former colony for that matter the return of stolen treasure would have been top priority.
Cameron is not in India to apologise for past colonial misdeeds nor correct past historical wrongs, he is there for one reason and one reason only, British trade.
According to Adam Boulton, political editor in Bangalore, writing for Sky News, Cameron’s trip to India was organised by the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).
Boulton says that India’s fast growing economy at a rate of eight percent a year is now the 12th largest in the world and is set to become the second largest economy in the world by the end of the century after China.
The question is will India’s government do what is best for the people of India or will they sell out their national resources to foreign firms? The British government fought the last general election on the platform of the slogan ‘British jobs for British people’. I wonder if Cameron would agree that the government of India and the people of India should demand the same?
The Indian leadership may not be able to get the stolen diamond back but they can certainly get their respect back by ensuring that the Indian economy is governed in the interests of the Indian people and not foreign interests.
Cameron is looking for another jewel for the British, but will the government of India allow him to have it?
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