Why is the UK apprehensive about its strategic military base in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean? British MP Daniel Kawczynski has expressed concern over Mauritian moves to reclaim its island and claim sovereignty over Chagos islands, a UK military base.
This is the most eastern British military base in the world, and with escalating tensions between India and China, it is imperative that the UK maintain this military base, said Kawczynski. Half of the island is leased out to the US, so this is a massive Anglo-American military base which facilitates NATO to have a forward position with regard to naval drills across the whole of the Middle East, and the Indian sub-continent, he explained.
Last year, the United Nation’s highest court ruled that the British occupation of the remote islands of the Indian Ocean is illegal. While such is ruling is only an advisory but the judgement was a humiliating blow to the UK on the global stage.
Mauritius is a commonwealth nation that gained independence in 1968. When we granted Mauritius independence, they signed a pact acknowledging that these islands would not be part of this independence package, and it would continue to be a British island, stated Kawczynski. He further added that Mauritius is now trying to reverse a legally binding global pact.
With the Brexit underway, EU nations have turned their back on Britain including Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium, who abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution put forward by Mauritius, asking for an advisory opinion from the International Courts of Justice on the Chagos Islands.
The South China Sea facilitates over one-third of the world’s trade and thus holds strategic importance. With rising Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and the territorial expansionism on the India-China border, western nations are coming together to counter such forces.
Kawczynski wrote in an article that, under the ‘String of Pearls’ strategy, China is actively acquiring commercial and military facilities throughout the Indian Ocean, including a full People’s Liberation Army base in Djibouti.
It has also been increasingly belligerent in its efforts to take control of the South China Sea, through which passes a third of the world’s trade, and has very recently been accused of mounting cyberattacks on Australia, “our Five Eyes partner”.
“In a post-Brexit world we are going to need to have an even closer relationship with the US and Australia and this military base is hugely important for both the Australians and the Americans because it is a gateway to making sure that we challenge Chinese expansionism in the area,” said Kawczynski.
“We are paying a fortune with the Americans just to send ships through to send a signal to China that we will continue to ensure that international traffic can continue to pass through the South China Sea,” he added.
He claims that if Mauritius manages to grab these islands off us they will lease these islands to the Chinese. Kawczynski stated that he was in the process of forming a new voting caucus within Parliament to ensure any effort to hand the islands over would be challenged.
China already has a military base in Djibouti and they have devoured all these small atolls from Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and are pouring concrete onto them and turning them into giant aircraft carriers.