Indian Ocean Territory
The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is an overseas territory of the United
Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between
Africa and Indonesia.
The territory comprises the six atolls of the Chagos Archipelago with over
1,000 individual islands. The largest island is Diego Garcia, the site of a
joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Islands of Chagos Archipelago
were claimed in the eighteenth century by France
as a possession of Mauritius.
However, in 1810, Mauritius
was captured by the United Kingdom,
ceded the territory in the Treaty of Paris. Agricultural workers migrated to
the Islands in the late nineteenth century, settling on the main island of Diego Garcia.
In 1965, the United Kingdom split the Chagos Archipelago from
Mauritius to form the British Indian Ocean Territory. The purpose was to allow
the construction of military facilities for the mutual benefit of the United Kingdom and the United States. The creation of BIOT
has been subject to legal controversy, as some legal opinions from
international law experts say
that the decision to separate the BIOT from Mauritius was illegal because
international law does not allow the dismembering of a country before
In 1966, the British Government
purchased the privately owned copra plantations, and closed them down, and
removed the entire population of Diego Garcia to Mauritius. In 1971, the United Kingdom and the United States signed a treaty, leasing the island of Diego Garcia
to the American military for the purposes of building a large air and naval
base on the Island. The deal was important to
the United Kingdom, as the United States
agreed to give them a substantial discount on the purchase of Polaris nuclear
missiles in return for the lease.
The strategic location of the Island was also significant at the centre of the Indian Ocean.