- Of the 22 countries which are giving their legal opinion at ICJ, the UK is supported by the US, Australia and Israel, while Mauritius is being supported by 17 countries, including India
- Historical survey of facts indicates that the Chagos Archipelago throughout the pre- and post-colonial era has been part of the Mauritian territory: India
India weighed in on behalf of Mauritius at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), The Hague, saying the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean – which is currently ruled by the UK and operates US’ Diego Garcia military base – “has been and continues to be with Mauritius.”
After the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a legal opinion to the question of sovereignty of the islands, the ICJ has taken up the case to deliver an advisory opinion, which will not be legally binding. Of the 22 countries which are giving their legal opinion, the UK is supported by the US, Australia and Israel, while Mauritius is being supported by 17 countries, including India.
India’s ambassador, Venu Rajamony, who presented the Indian opinion, said “the historical survey of facts … indicates that the Chagos Archipelago throughout the pre- and post-colonial era has been part of the Mauritian territory. These islands came under the colonial administration of the United Kingdom as part of Mauritian territory.”
While India stayed true to its commitment to its Indian Ocean neighbour Mauritius, as well as its anti-colonial credentials, there is some irony in the fact that after signing the LEMOA with the US in 2016, India can actually access Diego Garcia for some of its uses. That itself has led to some interest in India’s opinion, particularly as the UK and US have reached out to India for support. The Indian opinion was also made the day before the first high-level dialogue between India and US here tomorrow.
A statement by the Indian government observed, “The Arbitral Tribunal constituted by agreement between Mauritius and UK in its Award dated 18 March 2015, ruled that the undertakings of the United Kingdom with respect to the fishing rights of Mauritius in the waters of Chagos Archipelago; the eventual return of the Archipelago to Mauritius and; the benefit of mineral and oil resources in and near the Archipelago, are legally binding undertakings. Further, by declaring as legally binding the undertaking of the United Kingdom to return the Archipelago to Mauritius, the Award has determined the legal obligation of the United Kingdom to return the Archipelago to Mauritius.”
Once the Chagos was unilaterally annexed by the UK in 1968, the Islanders were evicted in groups from their homes. Many of them ended up in the UK and filed cases against the British government demanding the right to return.
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