diego-garcia-space

NASA Image Of Diego Garcia

In shocking news from Washington, the United States, Britain and Mauritius have begun talks that may lead to America losing its strategic Indian Ocean supply hub at Diego Garcia. This news comes four years before America’s lease to use this small island in the Indian ocean expires in 2016 but also at a time when the Pentagon has declared the Pacific as the military’s top priority and engaged in talks to increase the number of ports in that region. The navy is a few years into a major project to build infrastructure in Guam so the prospect of handing over the western bookend of the country’s territory in Asia must worry Pentagon officials. AOL Defense blog asked a senior Pentagon official about the news and was told “Without commenting on discussions between other countries, the US military is the most flexible and agile in the world. We’re nimble enough to deal with any scenario, especially as we move toward a rotational posture in much of the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, it’s always preferable to have more options than fewer.” So why would the US limit it’s options and give up a port that’s a central hub of activity for the prepositioned ships – ships run by US merchant mariners – and currently hosts important missions including drone operations in Afghanistan? The Guardian newspaper in Britain said:

“After meeting David Cameron in Downing Street, the Mauritian prime minister, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, told the Guardian that the aim of talks with the UK and US was to reassert Mauritian sovereignty over the islands.” “If Mauritius achieves its longstanding aim – supported, it says, in international law – it will mean the end of the British Indian Ocean territory. The territory was established in 1965 when Britain expelled the islanders and allowed the US to set up a large base in a deal that included cutting the cost of Polaris missiles for the UK’s nuclear submarines.”

The real question is what’s the impetus for the talks. While some experts in Britain suggest budgetary concerns and others identify the rights of native islanders, others believe the reason is the United States itself. As the Guardian suggested that “the US could use the Chagos Islands to bomb Iran is another good reason why the UK must restore them to Mauritius.”

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