Great Britain bases its argument for ownership of the Kohinoor on three points: transfer of ownership, the British Museum Act of 1963, and possession of the object. In 1849, the Treaty of Lahore provided for the formal annexation of Punjab to the British Empire. Also, this treaty specifically stated, “The gem called the Koh-I-Noor which was taken from the Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.” With the combination of legal documents and the formal transfer of the diamond by Dalip Singh, the last Maharaja (high king) of the Sikh Empire, the British government defends their possession of the diamond. Although the British have these legal forms, the Republic of India counters them with the argument that any nation can force a child to forfeit a cultural relic and have a false state sign a treaty. Clearly, neither India nor England can see eye to eye on this evidence.
On January 30, 2013, David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of England, rejected all suggestions that the British should return the Kohinoor Diamond while visiting the Amritsar massacre site in India. He declared, “They’re not having that back.” Cameron believes returning a relic in order to atone for the mistakes of the past is the wrong approach. While repatriation of an object can help to repair the relationship between a former colonial power and colony, this method can also ignore any positive effect the colonizer had upon its colonies. In the case of Great Britain, the British Museum Act of 1963 prohibits the government from handing over cultural artifacts to another nation, unless the object in question meets certain criteria. Even those circumstances cannot guarantee the return of an object. Despite India’s claim that the Kohinoor is a stolen priceless artifact, the current legal situation does not allow for the removal of items from national museums. In 2010, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated, “…the government has no plan to change the law.” A sentiment the state still holds true today.
Cameron also believes that a system of shared encyclopedia museums is the best route for Great Britain in regards to sharing the diamond. In theory, this belief makes perfect sense. No one people or nation owns the history of the Kohinoor. If the diamond were to be shared amongst museums with the proper security, nations who share this history could have greater access to the gemstone. This process could represent a middle ground in regards to the dispute. Although Cameron voiced this belief, he also stated the diamond would not leave the isle of Great Britain. While the idea of a globally shared Kohinoor Diamond sounds great, the concept creates an unrealistic future for the diamond as of now.
Although the British Museum Act of 1963 has not permitted the repatriation of artifacts, British museum trustees and members of Parliament have made an exception to this law in regards to both human...