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New developments in geopolitics around Diego Garcia by Lindsey Collen and Kisna Kistnasamy


At the very time when the Diego Garcia islanders have won their right to return to Diego Garcia through a British Supreme Court judgment 2007, which the Brown Government is now attempting to appeal against; while the Republic of Mauritius is maintaining that Diego Garcia is part of Mauritius, as it obviously is; there are other important power struggles being played out right now. The US-UK illegal occupation of Diego Garcia has been challenged by the international community for forty years, through the UN, the OAU, the Non-Aligned Movement. However, now both India and China are positioning themselves, as powers, in the Indian Ocean.

China has last week pledged to support Mauritius' claim for Diego Garcia, while India has over the past few years changed its position from "Indian Ocean Peace Zone" to becoming an "ally" of the US war on terror. At the same time, India is leasing an island in Agalega, part of Mauritius, as well as a base in Madagascar in order supposedly to be able to "watch" China's increasing presence. Meanwhile the Indian Government plays down the visit of a US warship, USS Nimitz, quite probably armed with nuclear heads, to the port in Southern India, Chennai. Eleven well-known intellectuals in India protested the presence of this vessel, which is also going to Diego Garcia. They include writer, Arundhati Roy, Deepak Nayyar, until recently, vice chancellor of Delhi University, Mahashweta Devi, S P Shukla and Sudeep Banerjee, as well as social scientists Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and Amit Bhaduri. At the same time as the letter of protest, Indian left and centre parties, including the All India Anna Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, the main opposition in Tamil Nadu, held demonstrations in the state capital Chennai last week. Trade unions and the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), a broad-based umbrella organization of more than 250 groups, were also protesting.

In the context of all the developments, it becomes increasingly important that the Mauritius Government take the following initiatives:

It puts on the UN General Assembly Agenda a motion for the retrocession of Diego Garcia.

It prepares for a case before the UN International Tribunal at The Hague on the issue of the illegal occupation of Diego Garcia.

It sends labour inspectors to inspect work conditions of Mauritians on Mauritian territory.

It sends inspectors, including Red Cross visitors, to check that there are no "illegal renderings" or "prisoners" on Mauritian land.

And meanwhile, we must continue the struggle for the closure of the military base on Diego Garcia and its conversion into a non-military tsunami early-warning station. This is why Lalit is part of the NO BASES initative worldwide. To end this kind of hideous military base, that is outside of social and political control.

Meanwhile, there is an interesting letter to The Times throwing up contradictions within the British State, as a result of its illegal annexation of Diego Garcia and Chagos. We will reprint the letter in toto:

The Times
July 19, 2007

Justice for Chagos

Sir, In his first speech to the Commons as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown outlined constitutional reforms to "entrust more powers to Parliament and the British people".

An example of the need for such reforms came just two days before he became Prime Minister, when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office petitioned the Lords to uphold the set of Orders in Council (2004) which had banned the Chagossian people from returning to their homeland.

These orders were used to circumvent Parliament and overturn a High Court judgment which had in 2000 permitted the Chagossians, who are British citizens, to return to the islands from which they were illegally evicted more than 35 years ago to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia. After two more defeats in the High Court and Appeal Court, the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has now appealed to the Lords.

Why is the FCO rowing against the reformist tide in attempting to deprive the Chagossians of their fundamental rights and to persuade the law lords that Orders in Council should not be subject to judicial review and parliamentary oversight? We hope that the new Foreign Secretary will quickly review this part of his legacy and accept the judgment of the courts.

LORD AVEBURY ROBERT BAIN, UK Chagos Support Association
CLIVE BALDWIN, Minority Rights Group International

All this means we are in times when our actions can and will have an effect on history. Lalit has written to a number of organizations in Mauritius, with a view to setting up a new common front for the re-unification of Chagos and Mauritius, in the context of closing the base and full reparations to the people displaced from Chagos to make way for the base.