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Former head of the Navy warns handing over the Chagos Islands to China ally Mauritius would be a ‘colossal mistake’


The former head of the Navy has warned surrendering the Chagos Islands to an ally of China is a ‘colossal mistake’. 

Admiral Lord West added his voice to concerns that it would endanger the UK’s strategic interests to cede the territory to Mauritius. 

His intervention comes after Boris Johnson warned that it would be ‘utterly spineless’ to abandon the islands. 

Since last year, talks have been under way with Mauritius as part of a transfer of sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory. 

The archipelago includes Diego Garcia, which hosts a Anglo-American military base nicknamed ‘the unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean’.

 It played a crucial role in the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, in 2001 to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War in 2003. 

Admiral Lord West has warned surrendering the Chagos Islands to an ally of China is a ‘colossal mistake’

Admiral Lord West has warned surrendering the Chagos Islands to an ally of China is a ‘colossal mistake’

Since last year, talks have been under way with Mauritius as part of a transfer of sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory

Since last year, talks have been under way with Mauritius as part of a transfer of sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory

Lord West, the former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, said ceding the territory would play into Beijing’s hands.

In a foreword for Policy Exchange, he writes: ‘Ceding the Chagos Islands to Mauritius would be an irresponsible act, which would put our strategic interests – and the interests of our closest allies – in danger, while also recklessly undermining fundamental principles of international law.’ 

He adds: ‘How on earth can the Government explain a decision to negotiate with Chinese-aligned Mauritius to hand over sovereignty of the strategically vital island of Diego Garcia, an island which is located some 2152 kilometres from Mauritius itself. 

‘It would be a colossal mistake – and one which opposition parties in Parliament would also be complicit in, given they are supporting the Government’s stance.’ 

He argues that there can be little doubt that the Chinese are pushing Mauritius to claim Diego Garcia and gain control over the port and airfield. 

He points to the 47 official Chinese development finance projects on the island. Lord West has backed the think tank’s report which urges the Government to cease its negotiations with Mauritius. 

Its author, Richard Ekins, head of the think tank’s Judicial Power Project, calls on politicians to defend UK sovereignty over the islands. 

Foreign Office sources denied reports that there were tensions with the US over the talks and said that Diego Garcia would never be part of the negotiations. 

The Foreign Office said: ‘The UK and Mauritius have reiterated that any agreement between our two countries will ensure the continued effective operation of the joint UK-US military base on Diego Garcia, which plays a vital role in regional and global security.’ 



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