In 2000, the people of the Chagos Archipelago (including the island of Diego Garcia, which was sliced off from Mauritius by Britain in 1965 and given to the US for a military base in the Indian Ocean) won a court case allowing them to return to live on the outlying islands in the archipelago. But in 2004, the British government overturned the ruling by issuing orders in council to ban any such return. This month, the British high court will decide whether the Chagossians can indeed return to their homeland. Sean Carey went to interview the new Mauritian foreign minister, Madan Dulloo (pictured below), about Diego Garcia and the future of the country. This is what he said:
Carey: What is your government's current policy on Diego Garcia?
Dulloo: We have always used all available opportunities in the UN, the AU, the Non-Aligned Movement and other fora to reiterate our sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago. Mauritius maintains that the Chagos Archipelago, including the island of Diego Garcia, was illegally detached by the UK from the territory of Mauritius prior to our independence in 1968 in violation of UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 of 1960 and Resolution 2066 of 1965. We are also in current negotiations at the bilateral level. We are pursuing discussions with the UK and the US for an early settlement of this issue. My recent visits to Washington and London included consultations on this issue.
Carey: Have the US or British governments made any new offer? And what from your point of view would constitute an acceptable settlement?
Dulloo: Well, a just and satisfactory solution would involve the recognition by all parties that the Chagos Islands form part of the territory of the Republic of Mauritius. Discussions are still going on. I'm afraid that's all I can say at the moment.
Carey: From the outside, it appears Mauritius has used the issue of the sovereignty of Diego Garcia as a tool to exert leverage over the US government, particularly over issues like textile quotas and so on. Now, while this may be advantageous to Mauritius as a whole, it does little for the original inhabitants of Diego Garcia, the Ilois, the vast majority of whom continue to live fairly wretched lives in the slums of your capital, Port Louis. Do you agree?
Dulloo: The sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country has got no price. It is not a matter for bartering, bargaining or finding some sort of trade-off. The issue of our...