Sovereignty of the Chagos Islands – political realities

After over 30 years of pressing the British Government for the return of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius what are the chances and means of achieving this in the next few years? I will leave aside the international law aspects other than to comment that if Mauritius wins its case against the MPA at the international Arbitral Tribunal, established under UNCLOS, this will provide substantial pressure on the British Government. International law is a powerful pressure on states but it is not decisive – real politique, personalities and diplomacy also play a part.
 The position of the British Government remains that the Islands will “revert” (Margaret Thatcher) and since 2000, “be ceded” to Mauritius when no longer required for defence purposes. Since it is now well known that the Archipelago, except for Diego Garcia, is not so needed and will never be used for defence facilities it is time that the British Government discusses with Mauritius arrangements for resolving the issue of sovereignty over at least the 55 Outer Islands. It had long been thought that the US could block a transfer of sovereignty though this appears no longer the intention of the US. Publicly the US says it is a matter entirely for the UK. It would not be surprising, however, that in view of the importance of their base on Diego Garcia, the US would prefer the UK to remain the sovereign power though there is no reason why the US should object to the Outer islands being transferred.
Foreign Office ministers have said that the question of sovereignty will be considered by Ministers after the feasibility study on resettlement reports. The report is expected in January and it will be debated in Parliament in time for Ministers to take decisions on the future of the Islands before the general election in May. The Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of 42 members, several of them senior politicians and former ministers, has often advocated in debates, PQs and letters to Ministers that a dialogue should be undertaken with Mauritius on sovereignty and the future of the Islands
Of course the US has influence over its closest ally, the UK. So it is sensible that successive Mauritian governments have recognised that they should also deal with the US over the sovereignty question and demonstrate that Mauritius is a solid and trust worthy ally. The extension, in 2016, for a further twenty years of the 1966 UK/US agreement, which made the islands available to both nations for defence purposes, is obviously the right time to aim for. The Agreement provides for termination in the two years prior to 29 December 2016 but clearly this could also include modification. That is the formal position but it is very likely that the US and UK have already been talking to each other on possible scenarios. There are annual UK/US “Pol-Mil” talks in Washington usually in October at which such matters are discussed.  Probably there will not be formal sit-down negotiations, since both sides really know what each other think. So the idea that Mauritius should take part in such discussions is not really practical.
There is, however, nothing to stop Mauritius putting ideas to both the UK and US on possible transitional arrangements. In 2001 the idea was first mooted that Mauritius would be content for sovereignty over the Outer Islands, leaving Diego Garcia for a later stage. At that time, especially following 9/11, the US was not in the mood for being drawn into discussion over the future of the Chagos Islands. The reply that Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, eventually received after putting this idea in writing to Colin Powell in late 2001 was that the US was content with the situation as it was. This was contained in a letter from Jack Straw that I passed to the Mauritian Government in 2002. To what extent the State Department had been ventriloquised by the Foreign Office to produce that sort of answer is impossible to say but it should be borne in mind that Foreign Ministers communicate with each other but officials draft their replies.
Things have moved on since 2002. The US no longer sees any real problem with a resettlement of Chagossians in the Islands, even on Diego Garcia, so long as they do not have to pay for it. Similarly I expect that objections to discussions on sovereignty have also much diminished. It would therefore be helpful in reaching a diplomatic solution for Mauritius to suggest to both Washington and London confidence building transitional arrangements such as co-management of the resources and the environment. To that could be added a joint scientific commission, even co-management of an amended MPA which met Mauritian interests, though that would have to wait until  later this year when the Tribunal judges are expected to make their award on the case. The Mauritian-French agreement for co-gestion of Tromelin offers a model so long as both sides see it as a step along the way towards transfer of sovereignty. The APPG has for sometime advocated that the Tromelin agreement provided a good example of negotiation over a sovereignty dispute, and if France could do it so should the UK.
The 8 November 2015 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of BIOT. I hope that by then Britain and Mauritius will be well on the way to negotiating an end to this long drawn out dispute and that the ban on Chagossians returning to their homeland will have been lifted.


Commentaires

It's hardly to be expected that the US and the UK would loosen their hold on such an important military base to them, when they have a policy of perpetual war.
The reality therefore is that, no matter what world authorities condemn them - and there have been many - there will always be one invented higher up to invalidate it by some legal fiction.
This is the way of the purveyors of freedom and democracy.
La lutte continue...

So why should the highway robber dictate the terms and conditions under which he/she returns the goods that he/she has stolen,while putting his/her victim under duress?

And this, assuming this highway robber is prepared to return the stolen goods in the first place!

One has only to check the fate of the Elgin marble!

As for the Americans their country exists on stolen land.

As Obama remarked in a speech given to the Australian Parliament in 2009,'that he was to pay avisit to the true owners of the land of Australia!'
However when it comes to the ethnic cleansing of the Chagos,Obama is concerned about the defense of the West!

The US is in fact giving succour to neo colonialism,while helping Britain to grab the economic riches of the waters of the archipelago!

The proposals made in this analysis of the land grabbing situation provoked by a former colonial power is, to say the least, disgusting. One wonders if the same kind of arguments would be put forward if it were the Isle of Man instead of the Chagos that is in question. To condone in such a way such arm-twisting, in flagrant violation of the spirit of the UN in regard to decolonization, and to give wholesale right to might in total defiance of international law, reveals of a backward mentality not compatible with human dignity, moral rectitude and the aspirations of this century.

For, man is endowed with a spirit breathed into him by God Himself. Wherever he may have been born, he possesses that spirit, which gives him, as a human being, his dignity that cannot be trampled with. Why does he, therefore, as a victim for being evicted from his land without having done anything wrong, have to negotiate with his oppressor for the return to his native land? Are we to understand, therefore, that all British people have gone out of their minds and that there is not a single one sensible enough to grasp the situation correctly in law and equity? Are they waiting that God delivers a terrible judgment on their own land, the British Isles?

What a cruel lie it is to say that Diego Garcia were to be used for “defense purposes” when it was, in fact, used time and again for aggression (without UN mandate) and torture purposes? How can humanity be at its lowest? Shame!