Another war is about to break out in the Atlantic.
The war over what UK calls Falkland Islands and what Argentina calls Islas Malvinas.
Now, Argentina has started gathering allies to uproot UK from Falkland Islands. This can possibly script the death of Imperial Britain.
This article discusses the brief history of tussle for Falkland Islands and the basis of Argentina’s and UK’s claim over it. It’ll also uncover why UK wants the islands which are almost 13,000 kilometres away from its territory. This tussle has sparked tensions again, as Argentina strengthens its camp to wipe out UK from the Atlantic.
Argentina has blocked flights to Falkland Islands. And it’s amassing support of several countries for uprooting UK from the Falklands.
But, before getting into the details, let’s get into the basics.
History of Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are a group of small islands located in the South Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Argentina. For more than two centuries, the Falkland Islands have been a source of contention and dispute for several nations.
It all began in the 1700s when an uninhabited archipelago was discovered off the coast of Argentina. France was the first to stake their claim on the islands in 1764. Followed the next year by Britain, which sought to colonise the islands as well. This ignited a heated debate between both the nations that has been ongoing ever since.
The year 1820 saw the dispute rise to a new level with the arrival of American privateer David Jewett. He attempted to claim possession of the islands on behalf of Argentina. This ushered in two decades of skirmishes between Britain and Argentina as both sought to assert their dominance. This culminated in 1840 when the Falkland Islands were officially declared a Crown colony. Scottish settlers were sent by Britain to establish a pastoral community.
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Since then, the islands have been disputed territory. Both the UK and Argentina claim sovereignty over the islands.
But what is the basis of Argentina’s and UK’s claim over Falkland Islands?
Argentina’s and UK’s claim
Well, Argentina claims on Falklands are based on an official document from 1493. It was amended in the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). According to the treaty, Spain and Portugal divided the world among themselves. Spain ruled Argentina from 15th century to 19th century. Argentina asserts that after it got freedom from Spain, the islands should belong to it.
Argentina also cites the islands’ geographical proximity to its territory and the necessity to end a colonial situation.
In contrast, Britain argued that they had held “open, continuous, effective occupation and administration” of the islands since 1833, and that the principle of self-determination as recognized in the United Nations Charter should be applied to the Falkland Islanders. Furthermore, Britain argues that Argentine rule of the islands would actually create a colonial situation, rather than ending one.
Why does UK want Falkland Islands?
Strategically, the Falkland Islands are great significance to Britain, as they served as a military base in the South Atlantic Ocean during both World War I and World War II. This strategic placement of a British military base demonstrated London’s commitment to defending its interests in the region.
Not only this, Falkland Islands add up to UK claim of Antarctica. On TFI Global-Latin America, we’ve covered the politics of Antarctica and how it’s only going to increase in the future.
To put it shortly, Antarctica is brimming with mineral resources. Minerals like diamond, chromium, copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, tin, uranium, and zinc have been discovered by scientific missions. In addition, it also has vast reserves of coal, oil and natural gas.
The extraction of these resources in the region is currently unprofitable. But, it will become commercially viable to recover at least some of them in the future, as technology advances. Especially if global warming causes the glaciers to melt, which would expose additional places and increase access to them. Further, as the ice melts, it’ll create a new trade route and a new sphere of fishing in south of Americas.
And, UK wants a piece of it. Why wouldn’t it?
Tussle is far from over
The importance of Falklands is such that a war has been fought over it. In 1982, Argentina and the UK went to war over the Falkland Islands when Argentina invaded the islands, but the UK was ultimately able to repel the invasion and retain control over the islands.
Since then, Argentina has refused to recognize the UK control of the Falkland Islands and has continued to push for the UK to relinquish its control of the islands. Argentina has argued that the islands were illegally taken from them by the UK in the late 18th century and that they have a right to reclaim them.
In an effort to strengthen their claim to the islands, Argentina has recently been looking to gather allies in their fight against the UK. For the past 40 years, Argentina was a lone warrior. It has been participating both in the regional and global arenas in order to demonstrate its position on the sovereignty of the islands.
China supports Argentina’s claims
Last year, on 40th anniversary of Falkland’s War, Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Alberto Fernandez of Argentina released a joint declaration. China expressed their backing of Argentina’s right to exercise sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, the Argentine name for the area.
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China coming to its support serves as one of the most significant developments in this regard. Argentina has also blocked all flights from Falkland’s islands from entering its airspace.
Latin American Parliament
Further, in last year’s Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), Latin American and Caribbean countries showed their support for Argentina’s stance. According to Telesur, a Latin American publication, the foreign ministry of Argentina issued a statement that Parlatino legislators, members of Malvina’s council, and diplomats “called on the international community to urge the British Government to resume negotiations with Argentina in line with the provisions of international law.”
Previous President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro had no intentions in supporting such claims. But things changed as Lula took office.
On his official state visit to the Argentina, he released a joint statement with the Argentinian President. The statement supported Argentina’s claim over the Falkland’s islands. “The president of Brazil renewed his country’s support for the legitimate rights of Argentina in its dispute with the United Kingdom relative to the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and surrounding maritime spaces,” the declaration reads
A top Argentine official recently made the rounds of talks and contacts in Spain. During the talks, the Argentine official raised concerns about illegal fishing in the Malvinas area, the presence of Kosovo troops training with British forces in the Falklands, and the Malvinas and Gibraltar questions post-Brexit. The meeting addressed the joint strategic action plan for 2021-2023, which covered the Falklands/Malvinas and Gibraltar questions, as well as Antarctic and ocean cooperation.
Tide seems to turning in Argentina’s favour recently. With decline in Britain’s domestic politics and international influence, it is a golden oppurtunity for Argentina to take back Falkland’s islands.
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