Falkland Islands Issue

The Falkland Islands, also called Malvinas Islands or Spanish Islas Malvinas, are an internally self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the South Atlantic Ocean. It’s roughly 500 kilometres northeast of South America’s southernmost point and about the same distance east of the Magellan Strait. The Falkland Islands administration is also in charge of the British overseas territory of the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia. On East Falkland, Stanley is the capital and largest town; many scattered small towns and a Royal Air Force facility at Mount Pleasant.

The topic has a very high chance of being asked in Geography Question in UPSC Prelims or Current Affairs Question, as it has been in the news recently.

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List of Current Affairs Articles for UPSC

History of Falkland Islands Issue

  • The Falkland Islands have always been colonized and conquered by Britain, France, Spain, and Argentina since the 18th century. The islands were unoccupied until the 1700s, when France established a colony in 1764. When the British came the following year to claim the islands for themselves, it marked the beginning of a long-running struggle.
  • The islands were primarily used and explored by sealing and whaling vessels by 1811, when colonial powers had left. However, in November 1820, an American privateer named David Jewett reignited a long-dormant controversy by claiming control of the islands on behalf of Argentina.
  • Over the next two decades, minor conflicts erupted between Argentina and the United Kingdom, with both gaining supremacy over the other and, on alternate occasions, winning the war. That changed in 1840 when the Falklands islands became a Crown territory and Britain dispatched Scottish settlers to develop a predominantly pastoral settlement.
  • The Falkland Islands were significant to Britain, as evidenced by its use as a military facility in the South Atlantic Ocean during World War I and World War II. However, with the end of WWII, the islands became a source of contention once more.
  • The UN Committee on decolonization discussed the islands’ status in 1964.
  • The United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution in December 1965, acknowledging the existence of a territorial dispute between the United Kingdom and Argentina on these islands and urging both governments to find a peaceful settlement.
  • Argentina and the United Kingdom held discussions about the islands for the following three years. Still, they were hampered by immigrants in the Falklands who initially hailed from the United Kingdom, forcing a standstill to all negotiations between the two countries until 1977.
  • Because of financial concerns, the United Kingdom’s Thatcher government seriously considered ceding over the Falkland Islands to Argentina in the run-up to the conflict. Tensions between the two nations over these islands were simmering beneath the surface in the backdrop of these events.
  • Argentina attacked the Falkland Islands in 1982, claiming that the United Kingdom (UK) had illegally annexed them. This sparked the Falklands War. This was owing in part to Argentina’s military government’s authority, as well as the fact that it was the 150th anniversary of the British occupation.
  • The war concluded with the United Kingdom’s victory, just over two months after it began.
  • Although full diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Argentina were restored in 1990, the issue of ownership remained a source of controversy.

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The Ground of the Island’s Various Claims

  • Argentina: Its claim to the Falklands was based on an official paper from 1493, which was amended by the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, which split the New World between Spain and Portugal; succession from Spain; the islands’ proximity to South America; and the necessity to end a colonial status.
  • United Kingdom: Its claim was based on its “open, continuous, effective control, occupancy, and administration” of these islands from 1833, as well as its intention to apply the United Nations Charter’s principle of self-determination to the people living on these islands. It further claimed that, rather than ending a colonial condition, the Argentine administration and rule of the Falk landers’ lives without their will would create one.

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Recent Developments

  • China recently issued a statement confirming its support for Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands, which Britain rejected.
  • China and Argentina had recently published a joint statement. China “reaffirms its support for Argentina’s quest for complete sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands),” adopting the Argentine name for the territory.

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