British Indian Ocean Territory


British Indian Ocean Territory Map


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, and France 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 independence.

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.