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#Stop Antiquities Theft: If Israel can do, so can India

Apart from drugs and guns, theft of antiquities is the third most profitable business.

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Artifacts at The National Museum in New Delhi. Image source: Wikipedia
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To stop the blight of antiquities theft in Israel, Antiquities Authority has made a new rule for the antiquities dealers. The registered dealers need to register their artifacts in a digital database so that theft of antiquities can be avoided in Israel.

The new rule has come into effect from March 28, 2016, but many dealers have pleaded the High Court of Justice to stop the regulation as they fear, many will drop out of the business. But, for other antiquities dealers this is a good way to close the loopholes.

In India, the scenario is different. To counter illicit trading, government can start with, simple things, such as an integrated database of existing and stolen artifacts hardly exist. Providing sufficient information regarding theft cases has been a struggle. For instance, a question was raised in Parliament in 2010 about the number of antiquities stolen; the government provided a list of 13 thefts that occurred between 2007 and 2010. The list did not include that of Subhash Kapoor, an international antiquities dealer currently in prison for his alleged involvement in the theft of 18 idols from Tamil Nadu. The number of thefts reported also appears too few to be true, reported The Hindu.

The rule started in Israel is quite organized as it legally binds the antiquities dealers so that any sort of crimes can be avoided. The dealer must photograph, register and detail all items in their storerooms and upload them to the IAA’s network. All purchases and sales done are to be placed through the registry for approval by the IAA. Once these procedures are taken care of, an object is digitally transferred from a dealer’s inventory to the buyer’s. As a result, black marketing of antiquities can be countered and checked from time to time.

Related article: Bronze Age gold workers in Ireland made artifacts from imported material, says a study

Head of the IAA’s Robbery Prevention Division, Amir Ganor said, there were 57 licensed antiquities dealers who registered their inventories to the system in the end of 2015. 15 other dealers have started early 2016 but there are quite a few who refused to abide by the rule.

Looted art. Image source: Wikipedia
Looted art (Nazi storage of looted objects). Image source: Wikipedia

The problem is “Looters illegally excavated items, which enter well-organized networks of trade allowing them to be laundered along the way, only to be sold to unsuspecting tourists and collectors with a clean bill of sale in a state-sanctioned shop,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ll stop their operations, but we’ll work to carry out enforcement operations against them,” Ganor added firmly.

In March, the IAA called on Israelis to volunteer a few hours a month to help protect Israel’s 30,000 archaeological sites from looters and vandals. In the month and a half since the initiative was made public, over 180 people have registered, Ganor said. “If we can manage to harness the public to be our eyes in the field, we could better protect antiquities sites,” he added.

On the other hand, the poor documentation and research of existing and stolen artifacts, outdated laws, and incompetent investigative agencies are responsible for deplorable India’s past in preserving its antiquities.

The international black market for antiquities has drawn worldwide attention in recent years, in part because the Islamic State finances some of its operations by selling plundered artifacts from Iraq and Syria.

Apart from drugs and guns, theft of antiquities is the third most profitable business. Germany is interested in adopting a system similar to the IAA’s as part of a broader international effort to quash illegal antiquities sales. Only time will tell whether the archaeologically rich India can do the same and counter illicit trading. (inputs from timesofisrael.com)

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.