Report on RTD with Ambassador Milan Meetarban, on “Mauritius and Chagos Archipelago” at USI on 05 May 2016

A RTD with Ambassador Milan Meetarban, former Mauritius Ambassador to the United Nations in New York (Jun 2001 to Jan 2015) on "Mauritius and Chagos Archipelago" with Vice Admiral P Kaushiva, UYSM, VSM (Retd) in Chair, was held at USI on 05 May 2016.

Report on RTD with Ambassador Milan Meetarban, on “Mauritius and Chagos Archipelago” at USI on 05 May 2016

 

Report  on  RTD  with Ambassador Milan  Meetarban,  on

Mauritius and Chagos Archipelago” at USI on 05 May 2016

 

Introduction

A RTD with Ambassador Milan  Meetarban,  former Mauritius Ambassador to the United Nations in New York (Jun 2001 to Jan 2015) on “Mauritius and Chagos Archipelago” with Vice Admiral P Kaushiva, UYSM, VSM (Retd) in Chair, was held at USI on 05 May 2016. 

 Opening Remarks by the Deputy Director & Editor, USI

Major General PJS Sandhu (Retd) thanked Commander Prem Prakash Batra, IN (Retd) for facilitating the discussion with Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan at USI.  He introduced Vice Adm Pradeep Kaushiva and invited him to conduct the proceedings.

Opening Remarks by the Chairman

Vice Admiral Pradeep Kaushiva said that India had traditionally neglected the  seas and not looked beyond 15 kms of its shores.  Lately, however, things have started to change and requisite attention is being given to India’s maritime domain.  He also highlighted that India always had close relations with Mauritius.

          He introduced Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan and drew attention to his long standing interest in Oceans.  He was also Member of the delegation for the Mauritius vs the United Kingdom arbitration proceedings over the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the Chagos Archipelago, thus, making him the most eminent person to speak on the subject and invited him to make his remarks.

Presentation by Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan

Ambassador  Meetarbhan started his talk with a brief historical background of Mauritius and the dispute between Mauritius and the UK on the sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago.  The salient points are :-

(a)             Mauritius was colonised by France  in mid 18th Century. At that time, the Governor of Mauritius also governed Pondicherry (Puduchery) in India, Chagos Archipelago and Reunion Island.

(b)         In 1810, most of the Indian Ocean territory controlled by France was ceded to great Britain.  Today, 52 per cent people in Mauritius are of Indian Origin.

(c)         Until 1965, when the Chagos Archipelago was detached from the colony of Mauritius, it was  administered by the UK as a Dependency of Mauritius.

(d)         In 1968, the UK excised the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius and leased Diego Garcia, the main island of the Archipelago to the USA for fifty years.

(e)         After initially denying that the islands were inhabited, the British deported approximately 2000 inhabitants ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to Mauritius to make way for the US military institutions on a quid pro quo  basis, possibly to facilitate sale of Polaris Submarine Missiles to the UK.

(f)           Mauritius has asserted that the Chagos Archipelago is part of its territory and that the UK’s claim is a violation of UN resolutions banning the dismemberment of colonial territories before independence.

(g)         The UK has stated that it has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Chagos and also said that the Chagos would be returned to Mauritius, once they were no longer required for defence purposes.

(h)         Mauritius has now taken up the dispute at appropriate legal and political forums.  The African Union and Non-aligned countries have supported Mauritius on the Chagos issue.

(j)      On 18 Mar 2015, the Permanent Court of Arbitration unanimously held that the MPA declared around the Chagos Archipelago by the UK in April 2010 was created ‘in violation of international law’.

(k)   The PM of Mauritius has described this ruling as an important milestone in their long struggle, claiming sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.

(l)      Since the era of colonisation is over,  this is the right time to begin negotiations over the formal, legal transfer of sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius.

 

Ambassador concluded his presentation by stating unequivocally that Mauritius is emotionally bonded with India.

 The Interactive Session

During the discussion a few connected issues were raised and responded to by the participants as follows :-

(a)         France has retained some Indian Ocean territories as what they call, French ‘Departments’ which gives them the status of being a part of France.  However, as per the European Union rules on Immigration, these departments are not treated as exactly the same.

(b)         It was observed that the difference in China’s view, in the ongoing disputes and arbitration on South China Sea and the UK’s stand on the Chagos Archipelago, lay in the fact that whereas the UK did not absent themselves from the arbitration hearings, the Chinese have not joined the proceedings.

 

(c)         The Lease of Chagos Archipelago to the US for 50 years is now extended by 20 years from 2016 to 2036.


 Conclusion

 In the end, the Chairman expressed his appreciation to Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan for his in-depth knowledge of the subject and thanked him for coming to USI for the discussion. Maj Gen Sandhu, DD&E USI thanked Admiral Kaushiva for chairing the session and the participants for their active participation in the RTD.  He also presented a copy of the latest issue of the USI Journal to Ambassador Meetarbhan.

 

 

 

 

Report compiled by Lt Col BS Varma (Retd), Assistant Director at USI.

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