The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that the United Kingdom does not hold sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, allowing a maritime border dispute between Mauritius and Maldives to be adjudicated. The ruling follows an objection from the Maldives, which claimed the tribunal could not decide the matter due to the existing dispute between Mauritius and the UK. The decision confirms the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that the UK had unlawfully detached the archipelago from Mauritius when it incorporated the islands into the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965, during the decolonization of Mauritius. The UK has rejected calls for returning the islands to Mauritius, considering them strategic to its security interests. The Chagos Archipelago hosts a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia. (Photo: WILPF)
In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean. (Map via CIMSEC)
Qatar's diplomatic isolation by the other Gulf states, accused of supporting terrorism in the region, heightens contradictions for the Pentagon's use of the critical al-Udeid Air Base.