The maelstrom of argument surrounding the increasingly contentious issue of British sovereignty over the Chagos Islands has covered a broad range of points, enough so to sustain political interest in the dispute for many weeks.
Indeed, the matter has safely dominated the headlines for longer than the collapse of Her Majesty’s 26th Government. Despite the intense attention dedicated to the issue, one facet of the discussion has not received the coverage it warrants; that is the inestimable significance of the Chagos Islands in the realm of regional, and even global, security.
Thus far, it has suited those on the left to take this matter up as an anti-imperialist cause celebre, and cry neo-colonialism at those who dare to take the opposing view. While they take to the House of Commons to finger-wag, proselytise and virtue signal, the existence of a comprehensive military installation, which has been intrinsic in the fight against terrorism and despots for decades, is being studiously ignored.
It remains an ineluctable, practical fact that the cession of the British Indian Ocean Territory, either in whole or in part, poses a credible threat not just to the national security of the United Kingdom, but of all those countries around the world that depend on the presence of this country, and that of the United States, in the region for protection from the scourge that is terrorism and instability.
While anybody could be forgiven for failing to grasp the strategic importance of a far-flung atoll, the size and location of the Chagos Islands bely just how crucial it is. Owned by the Ministry of Defence and leased to the American military, Diego Garcia is home to an elephantine US-UK military operation and serves as a redoubt from which Western forces can wage the war on terror, to the collective benefit of the world over.
Much of the security the United Kingdom enjoys today can be attributed in some way to the base at Diego Garcia; the abnormally long 2.3-mile runaway can accommodate B-2 and B-52 bombers, and from it the United States played a vital role in the Gulf War after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and during the Cold War the base served as a station for tracking malign submarine activity in the Indian Ocean.
Today, the 3,300 permanent staff and their activities have perhaps taken on an even more consequential role; in resisting the malefic and proliferating influence of the Chinese Communist Party. As Xi Jinping continues to embark on his unholy crusade to redraw the map of the South China Sea, deny nations their inalienable right to freedom of navigation and intimidate, economically and militarily, democratic nations, the continued presence of the West is of ineffable importance.
Whatever the ideological talking-points of the debate, it is of acute importance not to lose sight of the irreducible importance of the Chagos Islands, a base that has seen its fair share of noble causes, as we prepare to take up perhaps the noblest, and most trying cause, since the Second World War.
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