Indian Ocean military base Current Affairs - 2019

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ICJ advises Britain to return Diego Garcia to Mauritius

International Court of Justice (ICJ) has advised the UK to return the Diego Garcia (Chagos Islands) to Mauritius as rapidly as possible. The ICJ has said that Britain must give Mauritius control of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The advisory has been issued by the ICJ on the request of the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to look into the issue.

Observations made by ICJ

  • In a majority opinion the court noted that the decolonisation of Mauritius was not lawfully complete when it attained independence because Britain carved away the Chagos Archipelago from it and retained control over it.
  • Britain is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.

Why the Chagos Islands had become the bone of contention?

  • Mauritius was the colony of erstwhile of British Empire. With the calls of decolonisation grew stronger, the British granted independence to the Island nation Mauritius.
  • But the British cut off the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 before granting it independence in 1968.
  • Also, the residents of the Chagos Archipelago were forcibly removed and the Chagos Archipelago was handed over to the US.
  • The US established its strategic Indian Ocean military base at the Chagos Archipelago.

Both the UK and the US had vehemently opposed the UN resolution which referred the matter to ICJ saying it was a bilateral matter with Mauritius. UK is not represented in the ICJ Bench and the sole dissent judgement was by the American Judge. Hence it is unlikely that the UK would accept the advisory. The possibility of any challenge to the US Diego Garcia base from Mauritius is also unlikely. Hence by and large status quo would be maintained.