THE International Court of Justice advisory opinion iissued recently is a blow to the United Kingdom’s forcible occupation of Chagos Islands, including the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia on Diego Garcia atoll. The ICJ threw out Britain’s unilateral narrative on Diego Garcia.

The ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf observed: “The UK has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of Chagos archipelago as rapidly as possible.” The ICJ ruled that separation of Chagos Islands from Mauritius during the island’s decolonisation in the 1960s constituted an ‘unlawful detachment’ and was a ‘wrongful act’.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office shrugged off the ICJ’s verdict saying: “This is an advisory opinion, not a judgment. Of course, we will look at the detail of it carefully. The defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organised crime and piracy.”

Diego Garcia covers 6,720 acres of restricted military space on a low- lying, depopulated atoll 1,000 miles from the nearest continent. The depopulation was done by force by the British and the US. It served as a CIA black site --like Guantanamo Bay-- to interrogate and torture terror suspects including those from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. The base is important to America’s Afghan exit plan, to avoid a rout at the hands of the Taliban.

The recent Pakistan-India entente has exposed the hollowness of New Delhi’s narrative on Kashmir. With Diego Garcia in trouble, Pakistan will be the only trump card in US President Donald Trump’s hand for an Afghan exit plan whenever it materialises.

The lesson for Indian Prime Minister Modi is that truth ultimately prevails. New Delhi cannot forcibly keep the Kashmiri people enslaved forever.

Malik Asad


Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2019