In an article published on December 1, “The Telegraph” suggests that the United Kingdom has decided to abandon the project of returning the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius. A plea is emerging for a multilateral approach aimed at putting pressure, through the UN, on the British government.
Reactions were quick to follow after the recent article in The Telegraph in its December 1, 2023 issue. According to the British newspaper, the United Kingdom would have given up on returning the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius. Politicians, members of the Chagossian community and observers are of the opinion that the multilateral approach must be adopted in the face of this situation.
According to The Telegraph, the British government's decision stems from concerns among three ministers about preserving Britain's “special relationship” with the United States, which hosts a military base in Diego Garcia, and interests of British defense in the Indo-Pacific region. These concerns would be shared by the United States, which would fear that the strategic base would be compromised if Mauritius took control of the archipelago. China, an ally of Mauritius, comes into play in this geopolitical equation, competing with American forces in the region.
Defense Secretary Grant Shapps opposes Foreign Office plans to negotiate a “Cypriot-style” deal, favoring Mauritius' sovereignty, while maintaining British control over the US base. Ignoring the position of the United Nations, Grant Shapps insists that the islands remain under British control, rejecting the judgment of the International Court of Justice.
Grant Shapps, British Defense Secretary, opposes the Foreign Office's plans to negotiate a “Cypriot-style” deal, favoring the sovereignty of Mauritius, while maintaining British control over the American base. Ignoring the position of the United Nations, Grant Shapps insists that the islands remain under British control, rejecting the judgment of the International Court of Justice.
Nando Bodha, former foreign minister, is hardly surprised. “The attitude of the British does not shock me,” says the opposition MP and leader of the Mauricien Rally (RM). This is “a predictable about-face given the hard line adopted by former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and David Cameron, who were always against the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)”.
According to him, the bilateral discussions confronted Mauritius with the “whims and fancies” of the British government. “This simple fact placed Maurice in a weak situation,” says Nando Bodha.
However, he adds, the country can always turn to the United Nations General Assembly, brandishing the advisory opinion of the ICJ.
“The UN should put in place this multilateral platform, bringing together all the countries that voted in favor of Mauritius, in order to find a solution. Mauritius is also expected to table a motion in favor of a multilateral mechanism. The United States and the United Kingdom will absolutely have to come together at the negotiating table to find a definitive agreement, while respecting the international judgments issued over the years,” emphasizes Nando Bodha.
Same story with observer Faizal Jeerooburkhan. The government will have to rally behind international authorities in order to demand justice in the Chagos issue, he says. “Mauritius' arguments will have more weight because of the ICJ advisory opinion and the UN resolution. But everything seems to indicate that the United Kingdom will maintain its position. I believe that an international legal battle must be launched. Basically, it will be a battle of arguments against power. The United Kingdom, which has the United States as an ally, could win this case. Maurice also has every chance. If India considers Mauritius as a little brother, the country can throw its strength into the battle,” suggests Faizal Jeerooburkhan.
However, Jean Claude de l'Estrac, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, is of the opinion that Mauritius should “negotiate the restitution of the other islands of the Chagos archipelago, such as Peros Banhos and Salomon, among others”. “We have to give up on Diego Garcia. We have to accept the fact that Diego Garcia is lost for a very long time,” he believes. According to him, Maurice might not receive compensation.
“We are worried about the situation. If the British government goes ahead with abandoning the plan to return the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius, it will be a bad example,” argues, for his part, the spokesperson for the Chagos Refugees Group (CRG), Olivier Bancoult. Not only is the British government overriding the advisory opinion of the ICJ, but also the United Nations resolution, he criticizes. “This is a lack of seriousness, because discussions had already been initiated with the Mauritian government. It's dishonest. History proves us right: the British government inspires no confidence,” insists Olivier Bancoult.
If the abandonment of the possible restitution of the Chagos Archipelago, as announced by The Telegraph, proves to be true, it would be “a bad signal from the British government and a great injustice and lack of respect towards the Chagossian people”, insists the GRC spokesperson
Pascalina Nellan (Chagossian Voices): “No change of sovereignty without democratic process”
“The Mauritian government must end negotiations and consult the Chagossian population. As we have always requested, we want to be consulted to determine whether we are in favor of rehousing or not. We do not want a change of sovereignty without a democratic process. This is why a referendum is important. The native Chagossians, as well as their descendants, are in favor of relocation, but on the condition that it is under British protection and sovereignty in the archipelago. We do not accept a change of sovereignty. The Chagossians traveled to the UK because they felt marginalized. We fear a sell-off of the islets. »
Pravind Jugnauth will discuss the subject with the British PM
“I will not comment on a press article until the British government has responded officially. » These are the words of Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, after “The Telegraph” reported, in its online edition, that the British government has decided to abandon its project to return the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius. Pravind Jugnauth, however, stressed that he will discuss this article during a future discussion with his British counterpart. He made this declaration during the inauguration of a road linking La Brasserie, Beaux-Songes and La Vigie.