Britain and the Empire: Falklands and Chagos – A Tale of Two Islands
CURRENT AFFAIRS, 26 Mar 2012
April 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the 72 day undeclared war between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands in the South Atlantic. 2012 also marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island of the British Indian Ocean Territories comprising the Chagos Archipelago.
At the time of each event, the islands had settled populations of British subjects numbering around 2,000 each. A Comparison of the treatment of these people and their roles in the respective UK official narratives of events, is the subject of this article. It is an object lesson in the essentially Machiavellian nature of Power in general and of the British State in particular.
Sovereignty and Settlement of the Falkland Islands
The Islands lie about 250 nautical miles off the East coast of Argentina and some 7,000 nautical miles from London. The UK claim to sovereignty dates from 1833 following settlement by small groups of British Nationals. At various earlier and concurrent times there have been French, Spanish and Argentine settlements on the islands. Argentina’s sovereignty claim is based on inherited and well documented earlier claims by Spain prior to Argentine independence in 1816 and has been continuously maintained ever since.
Sovereignty and Settlement of the Chagos Islands
Diego Garcia is the largest island of the Chagos Archipelago situated about 5,000 nautical miles from London in the Indian Ocean. Until 1966 the archepelago was part of the self-governing British colony of Mauritius, when it was purchased for the princely sum of £3 million as part of the Mauritian independence settlement. The terms of the purchase allow for return to Mauritian sovereignty ‘when the islands are no longer needed for defence purposes’ 3
As with the Falklands, there are many documented sightings by Western navigators (notably Spanish and Portuguese) dating back to the 1500’s, together with various transient settlements as early as the late 18th century. Diego Garcia became a British colony following the Napoleonic wars, as part of the treaty of Paris in 1814. The 1960’s population have well evidenced claims to continuous settlement dating back to at least the mid-nineteenth century (ie almost exactly the same time span as the Falkland Islanders), most notably – and convincingly – from inscriptions on their aging ancestral tombstones 4
The Falklands War
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Mar 2012.
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