U.K. seeks Indian help in resolving Chagos Archipelago dispute

  • The British Foreign Secretary has sought Indian assistance in resolving current tensions between the U.K., the U.S. and Mauritius over the future of the U.S. military base Diego Garcia, and the Indian Ocean Chagos Archipelago.
  • A warning from Mauritius last year that it would push to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.

In India’s interest:

  • Ensuring the future of Diego Garcia would be in India’s security interest in the region.
  • The Chagos Islands — referred to by the British as the British Indian Ocean Territory, but which is not recognised as such by Mauritius — is home to the U.S. military base Diego Garcia.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, inhabitants were removed from the islands. Mauritius maintaining that the archipelago remains its integral part.
  • Mauritius holds legally binding rights to fish in the waters surrounding the Chagos Archipelago, to the eventual return of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius when no longer needed for defence purposes, and to the preservation of the benefit of any minerals or oil discovered in or near the Chagos Archipelago pending its eventual return.
  • In March 2015, a tribunal brought against the U.K. under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea found that the Marine Protected Area brought in by the U.K. around the Archipelago in 2010 (but not including Diego Garcia) was not compatible with Britain’s obligations under the convention.
  • In November, 2016 U.K. government announced in Parliament that it had ruled out the resettlement of the islanders on the grounds of “feasibility, defence and security interests… and the cost to the British taxpayer”. It also renewed the lease for Diego Garcia, up until 2036.
  • The Mauritius government reacted furiously following the November announcement.

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