Chagos Island Dispute
14, Sep 2018
Prelims level : International Mains level : Paper – II India & its Neighbourhood
- India supports Mauritius’ claim on Chagos islands under UK control.
- It is a part of hearing from representatives of 22 countries and the African Union (AU) in a dispute over the contentious Chagos island between Mauritius and the United Kingdom (UK).
- The four-day International Court of Justice hearing of ICJ began on dealing dispute between Mauritius and the UK over the atolls located at the strategic Indian Ocean.
- The ICJ was asked by the UN General Assembly to give its advisory opinion on whether UK’s continuing possession of Chagos was in violation of international law. The General Assembly had agreed through a resolution on June 22, 2017 to refer two questions to the UN’s main judicial organ to give their advisory opinion. India was one of the 94 countries that voted in favour of the resolution.
- The dispute dates back to 1965 when Mauritius attained freedom but UK decided to keep the the Chagos Islands which according to Mauritius was in violation of 1960 UN resolution 1514, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence.
- The UN in December 1965 asked the UK to complete the decolonisation of Mauritius and report the same to the General Assembly.
- UK is legally bound by a ruling of the The Arbitral Tribunal, constituted in 2015, to return the archipelago to Mauritius. The UK has consistently maintained that it has no doubt about the Mauritian claim to sovereignty in the islands but will cede the archipelago to Mauritius when it is no longer required for defence purposes.
- In June 2017 at the United Nations General Assembly, India supported the draft resolution on the same matter in favour of Mauritius.
- Legal aspects should root themselves in the historical facts, behaviour of the nations concerned, and the consideration of the issue by relevant administrative and judicial institutions.
- The analysis of historical facts and consideration of the legal aspects confirm that sovereignty of the Chagos archipelago has been and continues to be with Mauritius.
- India is going to stick to its earlier stand and stand by Mauritius in this fight against UK’s colonial history and the rights of exiled islanders to return.
- As the disputed Chagos islands, which is home to Diego Garcia the key military base of the UK and the US in the Indian Ocean, saying that the process of its decolonisation remains incomplete as long as the atolls continue to be under UK’s control.
- As India, as a country that has gone through the throes of decolonisation, since its own independence in 1947, has always been in the forefront of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
- The existence of foreign bases and the military presence of non-littoral states in the Indian Ocean has been a matter of grave concern for India.
- Great Power military presence has a naturally deleterious impact on the security environment of the countries of the region as it introduces new tensions and conflicts and accentuates existing ones, thereby threatening peace and stability in our neighbourhood and in the world in general.
- But there had been a debate within the Indian government over taking the step of presenting a legal argument, especially since New Delhi did not want the US to move out of the Indian Ocean and leave a vacuum for the Chinese to fill in.