Qasim: Chances of reclaiming lost maritime territory has improved, Maldives must initiate talks

Jumhoory Party's leader Qasim Ibrahim. (Sun Photo/Ahmed Awshan Ilyas)

Jumhoory Party (JP)’s leader Qasim Ibrahim urged the Maldivian government to initiate talks with the United Kingdom as soon as possible on Monday, stating that the chances of Maldives reclaiming the maritime territory it lost to Mauritius has improved, after Britian reportedly scrapped plans to hand the Chagos Islands back to Mauritius.

 In a post on Facebook on Monday, Qasim said that with the change in Britian’s decision regarding Chagos Islands - a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometers south of the Maldives archipelago, the Maldivian government must work “wisely and swiftly” to reclaim the maritime territory it lost to Mauritius.

Qasim said that Britian’s decision not to cede the Chagos Islands to Mauritius has improved Maldives’ chances to reclaim the maritime territory it lost to Mauritius with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)’s decision in the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Maldives and Mauritius.

“I respectfully ask Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu to initiate efforts to reclaim the territory the Maldivian people lost with ITLOS’ decision in the dispute over Chagos wisely and as swiftly as possible,” he said.

He reminded President Muizzu of his electoral pledge to appeal ITLOS’ decision within his first 100 days in office.

Qasim said that he himself had made the same promise during his own presidential campaign, because he believes it is tied to Maldives’ national interests.

Qasim said that he and his party will provide their full support to the president in the matter.

“I am confident you will initiate swift discussions with the British government, maintain Maldives’ years-long stand in this matter, and work to deliver victory to the Maldivian people,” he said.

The islands have been the subject of a decades-long dispute with Mauritius, which won a ruling at the International Court of Justice in 2019 to have Britain’s ownership declared unlawful and for the islands to be returned “as rapidly as possible”.

The court’s decision was welcomed by the United Nations general assembly, which voted by a large majority, including Maldives, for the islands to be relinquished.

Meanwhile, the territorial dispute between Maldives and Mauritius is over an area between the Maldives and Chagos Islands, as the country's exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of Chagos.

Mauritius lodged the case with the ITLOS under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2019.

In April 2022, ITLOS concluded that the conflicting exclusive economic zones between Mauritius and Maldives would be divided between the two using the equidistance formula as argued by Maldives in the case.

Thus, Maldives gains 47,232 square kilometers from the 95,563 square kilometers of maritime territory in dispute while Mauritius gains 45,331 square kilometers.

The government had argued that Maldives did not maritime territory by the ruling, while the then-opposition claimed Maldives is entitled to the entire 95,563 square kilometers.