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, amid a warning from Mauritius last year that it would push to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.
The British — acting on the request of the U.S. — are hopeful that India may be able to exercise its influence with the Mauritian government to help the three sides come to some agreement. The British believe that ensuring the future of Diego Garcia with US, would be in India’s security interest in the region too. This is because China is expanding its influence in South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region.
About The Chagos Islands
The Chagos Island referred to by the British as the British Indian Ocean Territory, 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. Tensions remain, with Mauritius maintaining that the archipelago remains its integral part.
The Hague international tribunal order
1. In March 2015, a tribunal brought against the U.K. found that the Marine Protected Area brought in by the U.K. around the Archipelago in 2010 (but not including Diego Garcia) actually belongs to Mauritius.
2. Mauritius holds legally binding rights to fish in the waters surrounding the Chagos Archipelago.
3. And directed eventual return of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius when no longer needed for defence purposes.
4. To preserve the benefit of any minerals or oil discovered in or near the Chagos Archipelago for Mauritus.
1. Last year, the U.K. government announced that it had ruled out the resettlement of the islanders.
2. It also renewed the lease for Diego Garcia, up until 2036, presently used by US as military base.
Response of Mauritius
The Mauritius government reacted furiously following announcement of renewal of lease. Mauritius claimed it had “full justification” to seek UN General Assembly approval to take the matter to the International Court of Justice — a move that the U.K. government is keen to avoid.
Views of India
India has maintained that the matter of whether or not to proceed with the UN General Assembly move is a decision for the Mauritian government to make.