News Brief

In Rare Announcement, US Says Its Nuclear Submarine Visited Indian Ocean Military Base In Diego Garcia In October

Swarajya Staff

Dec 04, 2022, 12:29 PM | Updated 12:44 PM IST

USS West Virginia visits Diego Garcia during extended deterrence patrol. (US Strategic Command)
USS West Virginia visits Diego Garcia during extended deterrence patrol. (US Strategic Command)

In a rare announcement this week, the United States said its ballistic missile submarine, USS West Virginia, visited its Indian Ocean military base at Diego Garcia in October this year.

The ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) of the US Navy was at the base between 25 and 31 October, the announcement said.

The submarine "stopped in Diego Garcia for a brief port visit...during an extended deterrence patrol providing security and stability to our Allies," the US Strategic Command said in a statement.

Before it visited the base at Diego Garcia, the submarine had surfaced in the Arabian Sea and "participated in a joint, US Strategic Command-directed communications exercise to validate emerging and innovative tactics in the Indian Ocean," the statement added.

One of the 14 Ohio-class SSBNs in service with the US Navy, the boat is capable of carrying up to 20 Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with multiple, independently targeted warheads.

"The submarine also conducted a complete crew exchange in Diego Garcia and a subsequent replenishment at sea, highlighting the SSBN force's readiness and flexibility to remain on patrol for an extended period of time," the US Strategic Command said.

The development comes at a time when the United Kingdom and Mauritius are moving towards negotiations over the control of the Chagos Islands. Diego Garcia is a part of the Chagos Archipelago, which the UK identifies as British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT.

In 1965, the archipelago was separated from Mauritius, then a British colony, and made part of the UK's overseas territory. Later, the UK evicted the entire population of the archipelago and leased Diego Garcia to the United States for its Indian Ocean military base.

The dispute over the control of the islands has intensified in recent years. In the last few years, the International Court of Justice, the maritime law tribunal of the United Nations, and the UN General Assembly have sided with Mauritius on the dispute. New Delhi, which is building a military base of its own in Mauritius' Agalega Island, has sided with Port Louis.

However, given the increasing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean, India also wants the US to retain its presence in Diego Garcia. New Delhi is believed to have nudged Mauritius to offer to renew the lease of Diego Garcia to the US if it is able to wrest back sovereignty from the UK.

Some reports say that the island nation has already given the US an offer of a 99-year lease. The US's current lease of Diego Garcia, obtained illegally from the British, is set to expire in 2036.

Also Read: Diego Garcia Dispute In Focus As Prime Ministers Of UK, Mauritius Visit India At The Same Time This Week

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