MARK ALMOND reveals how Mauritius has become the centre of a power struggle ... trends now
To most of us, Mauritius is a holiday paradise, a nirvana for eco-tourists and honeymooners far removed from the slings of world politics and global crises.
But this balmy island in the Indian Ocean is now the unlikely epicentre of a chilling power struggle between America and China.
At the heart of this rivalry is the remote Chagos Archipelago. It’s uninhabited except for the island of Diego Garcia, which hosts a major Anglo-American military base.
Owned by the Ministry of Defence but loaned to the US, it is Washington’s most important asset in the vast Indo-Pacific region west of Pearl Harbor.
Looking north, all of America’s main rivals sit within range of its B-52 bombers there. From Diego Garcia, Iraq and Afghanistan could be bombed from the base’s two-mile-long runway.
MARK ALMOND: At the heart of this rivalry is the remote Chagos Archipelago. It’s uninhabited except for the island of Diego Garcia, which hosts a major Anglo-American military base
The US could even launch cruise missiles deep into Russia’s vulnerable southern flank or towards China. Their warplanes can reach vital shipping channels, trade routes and even potential Chinese bases everywhere from Djibouti to Pakistan.
In other words, the security of the West rests on this 27 square kilometre atoll.
But Britain and America’s control of Diego Garcia is in peril – at a time when China’s President Xi Jinping has set his sights on the island.
What’s this got to do with Mauritius, which is more than a thousand miles south-west of Diego Garcia?
The UK claimed Mauritius from France in the 19th Century and it remained a British colony until 1968.
But in the 1960s and 1970s, Britain removed the local population from the Chagos Archipelago to make way for the US base on Diego Garcia. Whitehall’s reason was to house Washington’s strategic airbase and listening post there so it could keep an eye on the Soviet Union from the south.
Back then, Mauritius had no say in the fate of its remote island dependencies. But the global order has changed and the world has woken up to the Mauritian’s rallying cries.
After all, Britain condemns Vladimir Putin for