If there arises an opportunity to pontificate on the sanctity of international law and human rights, the British never resist the urge to jaw-jaw and bow-wow. That world must be ideally run, as per the UN Charter, and everyone must follow basic principles of justice in the interest of peace and harmony, and that the U.K. stands with everyone fighting for life, liberty and equality and a whole lot of more such baloney is the standard fare dished out . What follows customary lip service to such matters at hand might be casual mentions or lengthy harangues about the British respect for and contribution to modern jurisprudence and framing of the international order , and towards the progress of humanity. All this etiquette sounds very impressive and the performance virtuoso, when Britain is not an interested party, in which case, the mask of the old imperialist falls and one comes face to face with the worst of colonial offenders in the modern world- a shameless hypocrite of a country which cannot just shed its old imperial skin and accord respect to global institutions.
The British refusal to transfer the control of Chagos Islands to the Mauritius, even in the face of an adverse ICJ ruling in February 2019 and the end of a six-month UN deadline in November 2019 , betrays their arrogant mindset . Both the ICJ and UNGA have accepted the position of Mauritius that the Chagos Islands were forcibly severed (forced to sell to UK for 3 Million Pounds) from them in 1965 as a sort of precondition for independence (which was granted in 1968) . As such the UK should now vacate their claim over the islands and recognise the sovereignty of Mauritius . But the British continue to maintain that Chagos Islands are a part of BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) which has been under British sovereignty since 1814 , and hence there is no question to abide by the above rulings .
Britain evicted about 2,000 people from the Archipelago in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for a huge US military base on Diego Garcia, which played a key strategic role in the Cold War , and during the US bombing campaigns against Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2000s. In 2016, Britain renewed a lease agreement with the US for the use of Diego Garcia until 2036. Mauritius has declared that it shall continue to allow Washington to operate the base even if it resumed control over the islands, so even this strategic compulsion cannot be cited as the reason for the British intransigence . UK insists it shall return the islands to the Mauritius once its defence purposes are served. The islands are located at a distance of 6000 miles from London , so it must be the Empire’s defence that they must be concerned about.
It is through these legal-sounding elaborate fictions like British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) , British Antarctic Territory (BAT) and 12 such other ( Falklands, Gibraltar, Cayman Is, British Virgin Is, Anguilla, Bermuda, Monserrat, Akrotiri and Dekhelia etc.) outposts which comprise the BOT (British Overseas Territories) that the UK runs its neo-colonial racket. BOT are remnants of the Empire that have either not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories. They do not form a part of the UK. Most of the permanently inhabited territories are internally self-governing, with the UK retaining responsibility for external relations and defence . Three are inhabited only by a transitory population of military or scientific personnel. They all share the Queen as their Head of State (sovereign) . Most of these territories are either military installations/outposts/bases , or tax havens ( Bermuda, Cayman, Gibraltar, Virigin Islands).
Devious motives behind insistence for retaining the sovereignty of such territories cannot be hidden inside the cloak of legal paperwork, and paying lip service to self-determination. The populations in these ‘colonies’ have been forcibly altered as a precursor or as a result of colonial occupation of long years . Inhabitants of most of the BOT are given the British Passport and that explains the continued love and loyalty towards the UK.
The Anglo-Dutch forces occupied GIBRALTAR, located at the tip of Iberian Peninsula in 1704. Most of the native Spanish/Iberian population was soon forced out . By the Treaty of Utrecht 1713, Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in perpetuity. That Britain still controls the vital Strait of Gibraltar, which connects Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, and is physically adjacent to Spain but lies 1000 miles from London, is a travesty . UK has the legal backing of two referendums , held in 1967 and 2002. But whole the population has been settled under the good offices of Britain after the original was cast away , and is further beholden by the lure of British Passport, hence bound to be partisan in their favour. But how must this affect the Iberian pride and sense of security is anyone’s guess ! Spain does protest, but it does not have China’s clout to frighten Britian.
The self-determination principle has been utilised by UK in maintaining sovereignty over FALKLAND Islands as well. The same model as Gibraltar was followed . After reasserting their control over the islands in 1833, Britain threw out local Argentine officials and settlers (fewer than 100), and settled some of their own. The population was a paltry 287 in 1851, which has now become 3400 strong . 99.7 percent of these immigrants voted in 2013 in favour of remaining a part of the BOT. Argentina and UK fought a brief war over Falklands in 1982. In 1983, Falklanders were made British citizens. The islands are located just 250 miles from the coast of Argentina, but are 8000 miles from London.
But it is not as if UK has absolute faith in the primacy of self-determination principle over the logic of territorial proximity to justify continued sovereignty. Facing a mighty, aggressive, resurgent China in the 1980s , the British deserted 65 lakh British Hong Kong citizens (now 85 lakh) to Chinese mercy ,who are locked in an epic struggle for democracy even as we speak. How the British came to occupy Hong Kong in the first place is a shameful chapter of their colonial history, how they fled with their tails between their legs is the greatest modern example of abdication of responsibility of towards their own citizens. Was any plebiscite/referendum conducted to ascertain the wishes of the people ? What happened to the principle of self-determination ? U.K. never feels obliged to admit to their grand betrayal of the people of Hong Kong.
One cannot define sovereignty only in terms of nationhood in today’s time. Because of their imperial –colonial endeavours, the British and other European powers did populate certain regions across the world with their people (ethnic and religious proximity) who continue to populate those ‘colonies’ ever since. If the wishes of immigrants, neo-converts and historical left-overs become the sole criteria to decide sovereignty, peace and security in many developing nations might come under under pressure.
The British make it their business to croak about internal issues of other democratic countries. The temptation to go oral is irresistible on Kashmir . Perhaps the Raj considers Partition as half-finished business, and Pakistan their illegitimate child. Or maybe after half a century of crookery, hypocrisy and shamelessness, duplicity comes naturally to the modern Brits. They raise hue and cry over Kashmir, Chechnya and Myanmar, but never quite explain their historical record in Chagos Islands , Hong Kong, Falklands, Gibraltar and other BOTs. British pay lip service to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Palestine , but bring out their finest oratorical skills while describing veritable revolts in India or Russia. If only this neo-colonial power had conducted itself like it preaches, the world would have been a much better and safer place, and would have seen a lot bloodshed in the past four centuries.
But alas, with the British, all you get is high talk, and hypocrisy.