Australia-India cultural ties could suffer a setback if Canberra-based National Gallery of Art continued to resist returning the allegedly stolen Shiva statue which it had bought in 2008 for $ five million, a former Australian diplomat has said.
Pera Wells, who served as Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi in 1991, stressed that the 900-year-old artwork must be returned and placed back at its origin in a Temple in Sripuranthan, Tamil Nadu.
On a query if the gallery resisted to return the statue, Wells said, "It (relations with India) is definitely going back...and would be a damaging element in our relationship with India if not returned back."
Wells, who was speaking at Melbourne-based Australia India Institute (AII) here yesterday, also said it was more important that "we return this very important icon" to India if the the BJP, which stresses upon Hinduism, comes to power after the ongoing elections.
The bronze statue of dancing Shiva was sold to the NGA by an Indian art dealer Subash Kapoor, who is now facing a trial in Chennai for allegedly running antiquities smuggling operations.
The statue has been currently removed from the gallery following an official request for its return from India's High Commission.
The NGA had bought 22 items from Kapoor and had spent at least 11 million Australian dollars between 2002 to 2011.