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Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth called the United Kingdom an "illegal colonial occupier" after London failed to comply with the UN General Assembly resolution adopted in May this year on surrendering control over the Chagos Islands by November 22, as reported by several British media last Friday. In particular, The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard noted that apart from the February UN resolution, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued a legal opinion referring to the Mauritius decolonization process which entailed the 1965 Chagos archipelago separation, as illegal.
However, despite these influential international organizations' decisions that appeared as a humiliating political and diplomatic loss for London, the British authorities still do not recognize Mauritius' sovereignty claim as regards the archipelago and do not consider decisions by the UN and its International Court of Justice binding. Pure and simple, the country does not to give a damn about them and is not going to restore Chagos to its rightful owner. At least as long as the British crown, according to London, needs the archipelago "for safety reasons." Whose safety, pardon me? The 57-million Britain against Chagos with its three thousand people population located nine thousand kilometers away from London? Pure nonsense. Now then, what's all this?
The explanation is quite simple. First, the maritime zone around the Chagos archipelago declared exclusive by London and accounting for over 500 thousand square kilometers, which is twice the size of the UK itself, is important in economic terms. Secondly, the island of Diego Garcia has been hosting one of the largest and most secret overseas military bases of the United States since 1976. The base's strategic location enables Washington to control almost the entire Indian ocean area. It is the Diego Garcia base that was used by the American aircraft during raids against Afghanistan and Iraq. Reportedly, the CIA used this base for holding and harshly interrogating terrorist suspects. There was even speculation that the United States had nuclear weapons and cruise missiles deployed at the Diego Garcia base. And all of this with India round the corner, which considers the Indian ocean its internal sea and is meticulous about other countries' possible development of hydrocarbon deposits.
Be it noted that in 2016, the US extended the lease of the base until 2036 and is unlikely to give up on using it in the foreseeable future. Hence it turns out that more than half a century ago, London simply stole the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius, so that the United States later created its outpost here to dominate the Indian ocean. Britain, by the way, has joint military facilities with the Americans in the archipelago. In fact, London had carved up the territory of Mauritius and leased out a key military base to a third country. And today this country – the United States – is selling fictions to the world about a Chinese threat in the Indian ocean, thereby playing off India and China against each other. At the same time, both London and Washington bid defiance to Mauritius as the rightful owner of the Chagos archipelago.
It should be noted here that the UK and the US are dogmatically reproaching Russia for its "illegal restitution" of the Crimea, while cynically and brutally pursuing their colonial expansionist policy. The long-term territorial dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom around the Chagos archipelago, as well as London's refusal to comply with the decisions of the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice in The Hague, are just a case in point. It is no coincidence in this regard that the UK has been dubbed "colonial empire 2.0".
As an excuse, the British Foreign Office says London does not recognize the sovereignty of Mauritius over the islands they consider legally owned by Britain since 1814. But London is not the one in the right, as vividly confirmed by the May UN General Assembly vote on Chagos. Among those opposing the decision to bring the archipelago back to Mauritius were only Britain, the United States and four of their closest satellites, with another 53 Western countries having abstained. And by a majority of 116 votes, including Russia, China and India, the resolution was adopted.
For the time being, be it noted, the UN is taking certain steps with a message to condemn Britain's stance as colonial. And since London has so far been ignoring all the UN calls for the return of the disputed islands, it may face undesirable consequences after all. In particular, sanctions may be imposed on Britain to be gradual and slow and mostly bureaucratic, as experts believe. Thus, London will find itself under increasing pressure in those international organizations it traditionally considers landmark. For instance, it is already the case that Britain no longer has a representative at the 14-judge International Court of Justice in The Hague. In the long run, the situation could be about to change as to London's engagement in other international organizations.
By the way, in the UK itself there are advocates of returning the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius. So, leader of the country's key opposition force – the Labor party – Jeremy Corbyn has stressed the other day the importance of this move "as a symbol of the way in which we wish to behave in international law." He also added that in case of coming to power, he would "right one of the wrongs of history."
The only trouble is that Jeremy Corbyn has not so many chances to win the upcoming December 12 early parliamentary election and come to power in Britain, which means it will be up to someone else to correct this history's mistake. In any case, Great Britain will have to solve the problem of the Chagos archipelago as its last colonial stronghold in the Indian ocean. And the faster the better.