Former Foreign Minister Refutes Claims of Policy Shift on Chagos Archipelago

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Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, asserts that the Maldives has consistently recognized the Chagos Archipelago as part of Mauritius since gaining independence. Dr. Shaheed refutes the allegations made by former Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor, who claimed that the government’s policy changed in 2010.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) recently affirmed the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) advisory opinion, which designated Chagos as being under Mauritius’ administration. This decision led to the demarcation of the disputed territory between the two countries.

Following the ITLOS ruling, some opposition members contended that the Maldives had relinquished control of a portion of its territory. During a press conference by a group of former Attorney Generals, Shakoor stated that Mauritius had proposed discussions regarding the disputed territory in 2001. However, the Maldives refused, stating that talks could only occur after the dispute between the United Kingdom and Mauritius over the Chagos Islands was resolved.

Shakoor claimed that this stance was adopted during the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and has remained in effect until now. “The sovereign control of Chagos was a contested matter, and we said that we will not enter talks with Mauritius until the matter remained contested, and this was the state’s foreign policy. Since then, until 2010, we maintained this position,” Shakoor stated during the press conference.

Dr. Shaheed asserts that the Maldives’ policy has remained consistent and unchanged across various administrations, including during President Gayoom’s tenure. He emphasized that the Maldives has always regarded the Chagos Archipelago as part of Mauritius since gaining independence on December 16, 1965. Shaheed also mentioned that this policy was reiterated in 1983, 1986, 1997, and 2002.

In response to Shakoor’s claims, Dr. Shaheed tweeted that the document shared by Ahmed Shareef, Vice President of Maldives National Party (MNP), reflected the opinion of the Mauritius government regarding the sovereign control of Chagos. He added that documents containing the respective opinions and restrictions proposed by both the UK and Mauritius would be made available.

Shakoor maintains that the Maldives altered its policy on October 21, 2010, during a meeting with the Mauritius government. As the Attorney General at that time, she raised concerns about the matter to the National Security Council.

“In 2010, the Foreign Minister had proposed a discussion with Mauritius regarding the disputed territory. This was the first acknowledgement by the Maldives that Mauritius had a claim to the territory, but until then, none of the previous administrations had taken this position, and there was never a legitimate claim from Mauritius on the disputed area,” Shakoor stated.

While Shakoor claims that the state’s position changed in 2010, the Maldives argued during the ITLOS trial that Mauritius could not bring a claim because it was uncertain whether Chagos fell under the sovereign authority of the UK or Mauritius. The Maldives asserted that this issue should be resolved before the ITLOS trial.

However, ITLOS upheld the ICJ’s 2019 advisory opinion, recognizing Mauritius as the sovereign authority of the Chagos Archipelago. Previously, the Maldives had refused to vote in favor of Mauritius at the United Nations, but President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the current incumbent, changed this stance and confirmed it in a letter to the Prime Minister of Mauritius.