Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Future of Chagos and Agalega


The sovereignty of, and territorial rights over, the Chagos Archipelago is a matter of contention between Mauritius and the United Kingdom for more than half a century now. Before granting national independence to Mauritius in 1968, the retreating colonial power played shady games to retain its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region. As it happened, two years before the granting of Independence, the colonial power decided to retain a land foothold in the region for the longer term and hence excised the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius. During the pre-independence political negotiations between Mauritius national leaders and the British government, the continued British-control over the Islands was legitimated through questionable deals- thanks to the obvious unequal bargaining power between the parties- the Conquerors leveraging their heft of power and their political subjects on the negotiating table desperately seeking freedom from colonial yoke. Through offering best relations beyond independence, paying 'peanuts' as immediate compensation and a vague promise of returning the Islands to Mauritius at an unspecified future date when the facility at the Islands would no longer be needed for 'defence purposes', Britain sought to retain its control over the Chagos Archipelago for the indefinite future. 

Responding to global shifts in power and the emerging equation with the US in the post-second World War/ Cold War  scenario, the UK later through a bilateral agreement, leased the strategic Islands to the United States for establishing its grand military base in the heart of the Indian Ocean- the Diego Garcia Naval Base. Almost in parallel, within a decade (1967-1973), Britain ensured that Chagossian villagers were systematically and stealthily ousted from their homes and lands permanently, without any opportunity of returning to their homeland forever! British national security and strategic interests trumped over the rights of poor and vulnerable islanders. Even as the Big Powers- the United States and the United Kingdom- consolidated their strategic interests and military control of the region, the hapless Chagossian people were left to languish in the wilderness of their own catastrophe- in mainland Mauritius, Seychelles,  the UK and elsewhere. No wonder, the British colonial excesses in the region continue to scar the national spirit of the formerly subjugated people, the Chagossians in particular.