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Mauritius vs UK: Negotiations Stalemate as Chagossians Seek Justice



Mauritius vs UK: Negotiations Stalemate as Chagossians Seek Justice

Negotiations between Mauritius and the UK regarding the return of the Chagos Islands are causing both anticipation and disagreements. While Mauritius expresses confidence in a positive outcome, the British government remains more reserved, stating that discussions must continue in the national interest of its population.

The Mauritian government displays confidence in a positive outcome regarding the return of the Chagos archipelago by the UK, whereas the British government is much more cautious about a solution in Mauritius’ favor. The UK is not willing to compromise on certain points.

In its written submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories last week, it acknowledged having “held nine constructive rounds of negotiations to date” with the Mauritian party. However, this does not necessarily indicate the result.

Stating that the negotiations are taking place behind closed doors, the British government indicates, “We cannot speculate on possible outcomes or anticipate conclusions.” It emphasizes that “any agreement must protect British national interests” and that it will not accept “anything that does not meet this objective.”

At the heart of the negotiations is the future of the Anglo-American base located on Diego Garcia. The base, the British government explains, “is of paramount strategic importance for regional and global security.

The priority of the British government is therefore the long-term functioning of the base, at the core of ongoing negotiations with Mauritius.” This is why, it says, it is important to ensure “that any agreement meets British national interests.”

In this regard, the Mauritian government, as well as the Mauritian parliamentary opposition, has always stated that the existence of this base is not in question. However, any lease or agreement regarding Diego Garcia must include a rent paid to the Mauritian government.

In their written submission, the British specify that the UK and Mauritius issued ministerial written statements at the beginning of negotiations in November 2022, both of which included the following sentence: “The UK and Mauritius reiterated that any agreement between our two countries will ensure the ongoing effective operation of the joint UK-US military base on Diego Garcia.”

It is also noted that the UK will only accept an agreement that protects national interests and those of its partners. “We are clear that our priority, in all scenarios, is the long-term security, safety, and functionality of the military base on Diego Garcia. Mauritius has publicly stated its support for this objective, as have the United States,” says the British government.

In addition to the security importance of the base on Diego Garcia, the British government places “critical importance on biodiversity, conservation, and ecological research.” They highlight that the administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), an entity not recognized by Mauritius and created by the British to manage the Chagos, collaborates with global scientific partners and governmental projects, such as the Blue Belt program, to support conservation and research efforts. “The British government will continue to prioritize the highest environmental standards in the region.”

Regarding the Chagossians, the British government affirms its commitment to support them wherever they live. From 1968 to early 1973, they were forcibly displaced by the British, mostly to Mauritius and the Seychelles. 2,000 Chagossians have been British since November 2022.

The British government emphasizes that it has put in place support programs for the Chagossians. “Annual expenditure for projects is expected to reach its highest level to date this year.

The new Chagossian citizenship scheme, launched in November 2022, has attracted over 7,000 applications, and additional funding has been agreed upon to support those moving to the UK. We recognize that the future of the BIOT is important to many Chagossians, and we will continue to inform them of the progress of the negotiations.”

Since November 2022, any person of Chagossian descent can be registered as both a citizen of the British Overseas Territories and a British citizen, free of charge. Out of the 7,000 citizenship applications, 2,000 Chagossians have become British citizens. “To help local British authorities manage any statutory costs that may arise through supporting newly arrived Chagossians, the Home Office has agreed to provide additional funding to local authorities worth up to £13 million until the end of the fiscal year 24-25,” the British government says.

This is approximately Rs 753.4 million, based on the exchange rate of the day. In its written submission, Mauritius, for its part, underlines that the BIOT is an illegal entity under international law.

It recalls that since 2015, 28 international judges and arbitrators have spoken out on the sovereignty of the Chagos, and “none of these judges have expressed support for the UK’s claim.” “As I understand it, an agreement is in sight and could be reached within a few weeks,” says Professor Philippe Sands, who represents Mauritius internationally on legal issues.

Source: Defi Media

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