The British government have announced that former residents of the Chagos Islands will not be allowed to return to their homeland. These people were removed from the islands in the 1960s and 1970s after the UK bought the islands from Mauritius. Subsequently, the UK and the USA agreed to a mutual defence strategy which included the creation of a naval base on the largest of the islands, Diego Garcia. In 1973 the Naval Communication Station on Diego Garcia was completed and the US have been using the islands as a base of operations for their adventures in Asia, including during the Vietnam War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
All countries have strategic, geopolitical interests and so long as nation-states remain in existence this shall never change. The US wants to have influence in the Indian Ocean, and Britain wants a strong military alliance. But this is an example where people have been wronged and there is an alternative to the status quo that wouldn’t jeopardise Anglo-American relations.
The British Indian Ocean Territory, which is the jurisdiction that rules the Chagos Islands, has a US military base. I would argue, however, that it wouldn’t be a car crash if the islands became a self-governing nation-state. In such a situation, the islanders may well decide that having the base was economically beneficial. If more territory was reclaimed from the sea with the help of the British and American governments, the islanders and the base could happily co-exist without tension and the continuation of this historic injustice.
However I contend that American interests would not be undermined if the base was totally removed. US allies exist around the Indian Ocean from Kenya in the West to Malaysia in the East; all of these countries would be able to host an American military base and some already do. Further, modern technology allows for a long range for ships and aircraft. I’m sure that ships and planes would be able to traverse the Indian Ocean without running out of resources because we’re not living in 19th century. If a commercial airliner can fly non-stop from London to Sydney, I think a plane flying from Pakistan to the Indian Ocean won’t run out of fuel.
Let’s be honest the British government’s desire to not anger the Americans has led to this decision. Britain and America need to work together, just as countries from all around the world should collaborate, but forcibly evicting an entire population of people should not have come into the calculation. Although the government has committed to providing financial compensation to the people, it’s outrageous that any government can destroy communities in order to build a military base. The government must reverse its decision.