The Battle For Chagos Islands

The fate of Chagos Islands lies in the hands of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Monday saw the beginning of public hearings that will determine whether Britain can hold onto their last African colony.

The proponents and opponents

There are twenty-two nations who have applied to the court for permission to take part in the court hearings. There are some who are opposed to Britain’s retention of control and others who support it. As with anything, there are underlying reasons their choices either way. The United States strongly supports the British in their plight. Diego Garcia is the largest of the Chagos Islands and is home to an American naval base that holds strategic significance. Joining the United States in their support are both Israel and Australia. Mauritius is against the British rule of the Chagos Islands. They are adamant that the islands should fall under the leadership of Mauritius. Mauritius is not alone in the battle. Seventeen nations stand with them.

Where it all began

More than 250 years ago African slaves and labourers from India began to inhabit the islands. The Chagos Islands are fairly small and don’t hold a huge well of natural resources. At the time the islands were under the sovereignty of Mauritius. During the Cold War, Chagos Islands began to receive attention. The United States recognized their situation of the islands as the ideal location for a naval base. At the time the UK were allies of the United States and cooperated with their intentions. The United States negotiate a 50-year lease for Diego Garcia for a mere $1 a year.

The year was 1968. Mauritius was granted independence and a new government took hold. Fear of being denied access to the base by the new leadership led Britain to annex the area remove the islanders by force. They used base security as their claim.