Britain defeated as Unions favour Mauritius control of Chagos Islands
The earlier decision of the UN’s highest court which told the UK to give up its control of the Chagos Islands, is gaining more ground as a meeting of the world’s postal unions in Ivory Coast has voted, overwhelmingly, to block the use of British stamps from the Chagos Islands.
Recall that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favour of Mauritius, which “claims it was forced to give up the islands. This is coming more than 50 years after the British government expelled the archipelago’s residents to make way for a US airbase.
This is symbolic as it signifies that the UK has another defeat in its fight to hold on to a cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean. Stamps marked British Indian Ocean Territory now won’t be recognised. It has be stamped by Mauritius.
All post to and from the remote archipelago must now have stamps from Mauritius – the country which claims control of Chagos.
A set of pretty postal stamps showing sea slugs and angel fish might not seem like the sharp end of international diplomacy.
But the near unanimous vote to make those stamps illegal, worldwide, is a blow to the UK, and another sign of its growing isolation over its claim to the Chagos Islands.
Three powerful UN bodies have already ruled that the archipelago is part of Britain’s old colonial empire and should be handed to Mauritius immediately.
The UK insists it will only do so when the islands are no longer needed for security purposes – the US currently uses one for a military air base.
The immediate impact of the international postal union vote is that stamps marked British Indian Ocean Territory will not be recognised. But the next step could see Mauritius seeking to ban international flights over the area – a vast chunk of the Indian Ocean.
All indications so far show that Britain has almost no allies left on the Chagos issue.
The Chagos Islands, also known as the Chagos Archipelago (formerly Bassas de Chagas) is a group of 7 tropical atolls making up 60 tropical islands located in the Indian Ocean. All sounds very wonderful so far right? Sadly though, they also were not only a “former” British colony, but also occupied some prime Cold War real estate. Currently the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands is in dispute between three countries. Mauritius, the Maldives and the United Kingdom, although to make things that little bit worse there’s a fourth player with a vested interest, the United States of America.