Likely to return to India? The Dancing Shiva statue in the National Gallery of Australia.

Likely to return to India? The Dancing Shiva statue in the National Gallery of Australia. Photo: Jay Cronan

The National Gallery of Australia won't contest the return of a controversial statue to the Indian government.

Towards the end of March the Indian government formally requested the return of a 900-year-old Dancing Shiva statue from the gallery and a stone sculpture of the god Ardhanarishvara from the Art Gallery of NSW. Tarun Kumar, a first secretary for India's High Commission, said he expected a decision to be made regarding the return within a month.

That deadline has now passed and it has been reported that the National Gallery (NGA) will not contest the Indian government's request for the return; nor will the AGNSW.

Both artefacts were bought from disgraced antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, currently on trial in India for looting and wanted in the United States for allegedly masterminding a large-scale antiquities smuggling operation.

The artefacts are in the care of the federal government under the Moveable Cultural Heritage Act, a law which allowed the galleries 30 days to challenge India's claims. With those claims uncontested, the decision on the future of both statues rests with the Commonwealth.

The NGA paid $US5 million for the Dancing Shiva statue in February 2008. The statue was one of 22 items it bought from Mr Kapoor's Art of the Past gallery for a total of $11 million between 2002 and 2011.