The UK faces a lose-lose situation as demonstrators put disputed Indian Ocean archipelago in the spotlight.
On Tuesday, Mauritius made good on a long-standing threat to Britain and sent a boatload of officials to visit the Chagos Archipelago without permission. This action has placed Britain, which administers the disputed island territory, in a very difficult position.
Touted by Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth as “historic”, the 15-day expedition is headed by Mauritius’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations Jagdish Koonjul.
Koonjul is accompanied by Mauritius’ legal adviser, British academic Professor Philippe Sands, as well as Mauritian government officials and Chagossians. British and American journalists have also joined the voyage to document the spectacle.
The expedition intends to land at the remote Blenheim Reef, a partly submerged atoll approximately 230 kilometres north of Diego Garcia, the location of a large joint US–UK military base.
The National Security College (NSC), with the support of the Department of Defence, is leading a multi-year research project on Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the Indian Ocean. As a part of this project, this paper analyses Mauritius’ latest move to claim the Chagos Archipelago. This paper first appeared in the Lowy Institute’s ‘The Interpreter’ on 9 February 2022.