MAURITIUS has challenged British jurisdiction over Diego Garcia at the UN’s International Court of Justice at India’s instigation.
The Mauritius government has taken the stance that the archipelago was part of its territory since at least the 18th century and was unlawfully taken away in 1965, three years before Mauritius gained independence from Britain. The Indian media claims the British Indian Ocean Territory is an archipelago of 55 islands spread over 54,400 sq. km in the Indian Ocean. The territory comprises seven atolls of the Chagos Archipelago.
The territory was established in 1965 when around 1,500 inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago were forcibly removed, after a deal between the United States and the United Kingdom to establish an American military base at the highest island there, Diego Garcia. The other islands remained uninhabited. The media portrays it as ‘an example of colonial dispossession, international unlawfulness and willing capitulation to the US. The military base has served the US in its operations in West Asia, besides providing crucial land to install communication devices (spying).
Besides India, 21 other nations are backing Mauritius’ claim. Only the US, Australia and Israel are expected to support the UK.
A. J. Malik
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2018