UK’s Troubling Concession: Chagos Islands Handover Bolsters China’s Grip on the Indian Ocean

Rishi Sunak and Chinese leader against a backdrop of Chagos Islands landscape

Sunak’s Decision on Diego Garcia’s Sovereignty Raises Eyebrows Amid Concerns Over Chinese Expansionism

The UK government, under the leadership of Rishi Sunak, is being sternly warned against the potential dangers of ceding control over the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. A recent paper from the Policy Exchange think tank cautioned that this move could jeopardise not only the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands but also other British overseas territories.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, upon acquiring information from undisclosed “sources”, raised alarms about the government’s intention to transfer the Chagos Archipelago’s ownership to Mauritius. Johnson strongly vocalised his concerns, stating, “If my sources are correct, we are about to hand our title away and for no good reason. It seems this country is on the verge of a colossal mistake.”

The former PM further elaborated on the gravity of the situation, drawing attention to China’s territorial ambitions, “Just as the Chinese are building runways over every reef and atoll they can find – places that have never been Chinese possessions – we are throwing in the sponge.”

Post Johnson’s tenure at No. 10, reports emerged in November 2022 that the UK had initiated negotiations with Mauritius over the handover of the islands. This move was heavily criticised internationally, especially after the UK defied a UN deadline, leading it to be labelled a “rogue state”.

Sunak has been repeatedly advised that such decisions could imperil Britain’s national security. The report from Policy Exchange reinforced this, stating, “By agreeing to the very principle of a Mauritian claim over Diego Garcia they are also putting at risk other British Overseas Territories such as the Falkland Islands.”

Describing the immense strategic importance of the Chagos Islands, former First Sea Lord Lord West of Spithead referred to Diego Garcia as a “strategic jewel”. He emphasised, “It is no exaggeration to say that Diego Garcia – the largest of the Chagos Islands – hosts the most strategically important US air and logistics base in the Indian Ocean and is vital to the defence of the UK and our allies.”

The depth of the partnership between China and Mauritius was also highlighted, with 47 official Chinese development finance projects cited on the island.

In response, an FCDO spokesperson commented, “The UK and Mauritius have held seven rounds of constructive negotiations on the exercise of sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, and officials will meet again soon to continue negotiations.” The spokesperson further reassured that any agreement would ensure the continued operation of the joint UK-US military base on Diego Garcia. Source

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