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UNGA passes resolution demanding UK to withdraw from Chagos Archipelago

Date: 24 May 2019 Tags: International Events

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a non-binding resolution asking United Kingdom (UK) to return to Mauritius Chagos Islands in Indian Ocean. The resolution also welcomed February 2019 advisory opinion of International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal consequences of separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. India was among 116 nations to vote in favour of this UNGA resolution.

What is the issue?      

  • Chagos Archipelago is  group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in Indian Ocean about 500 km south of the Maldives.
  • It had been part of Mauritius since 18th century when the French first settled the islands. All of the islands of French colonial territory in region were ceded to British in 1810.
  • However, UK had retained sovereignty over islands to form British Indian Ocean Territory after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968.
  • The islands have since been used for defence purposes by UK and United States, which established a military base on island of Diego Garcia (the largest of the islands).
  • The entire population of Chagos islands was forcibly removed by UK from the territory between 1967 and 1973, and prevented from returning.
  • Mauritius claimes sovereignty over islands and states that Britain’s claim is violation of law and of UN resolutions especially one that bans dismemberment of colonial territories before independence.

ICJ verdict

In February 2019, ICJ, the principal judicial body of UN in its opinion had held UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago “as rapidly as possible”.

UNGA Resolution

  • It affirms in accordance with advisory opinion of ICJ that Chagos Archipelago forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius.
  • It demands UK withdraw its colonial administration from Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months and support Mauritius in its quest for restoration of sovereignty over the island chain.

India’s Position

India voted in support of the resolution and hailed that is as part of its longstanding support to all peoples striving for decolonization. India has consistently supported Mauritius in its quest for restoration of its sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago. It urged concerned Governments to reach a mutually agreeable understanding as soon as possible