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Chagos: An Unexpected Boon

By offering the British passport to the Chagossian community as a whole, the UK can now speak in the name of its citizens and cut Mauritius out of the equation


As part of its strategy to sustain the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), the UK government has been active on two fronts: (1) by insisting that it has sovereignty over the Chagos and concurrently oppose Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty; and (2) oppose the exiled Chagossians’ fight for a right to return to the islands.

On the first front, the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion in February 2019 was a severe blow, not a knock-out, to British pretentions. The UK knows far too well that the ICJ’s opinion may constitute an important moral victory for Mauritius, but the actual control and occupation of the Chagos will remain with the British. It has at the same time insisted that it is in no doubt about its sovereignty over the Chagos, and the ICJ had no business to intervene in a strictly bilateral dispute.

On the second front, the UK government has tried every trick in the book to keep the Chagossians in exile. It was part of its policy to ensure that the creation of the BIOT should be used exclusively for military purposes. The lesser the oversight, the better. A permanent community would be for too risky to their military operations.

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