By Gaurav Sharma
Argentina, the South American giant defined by the majestic Andes mountains, pristine glacial lakes and verdant Pampas grasslands celebrates its Independence Day today.
Known for reinventing the sensuous dance of Tango, gastronomy of luscious steaks and riveting style of football, Argentina has seen its fair share of controversies. The most noteworthy among them being the discovery and subsequent colonisation of the Falklands islands.
Although presently the Falkland archipelago, along with South Georgia and South Sandwich islands are official territories of United Kingdom, Argentina persists with total stakeholder claims over the islands.
Numerous countries have invaded and staked control over the nation, beginning with French colonization, moving towards a long phase of Spanish settlement and a transitional shift towards an equally long British subjugation merged with an Argentine ownership claim.
In 1982, the dispute between Argentina and Britain transformed into a full-fledged war. Caught in the midst of a devastating economic crisis and violent civil unrest, Argentina invaded and controlled the islands for 74 days. Soon, Britain launched a diplomatic offensive and gained the support of the United Nations for wrestling control over the islands.
Following a naval engagement, Britain ousted the Argentine occupation of the islands and reestablished supremacy over them.
Presently, Falklands Islands is a British Overseas Territory with a degree of internal self-government. Issues pertaining to defense and foreign affairs are handled by Britain.
Flame rekindled into raging conflagration
With the discovery of oil blocks on Falkland’s shores, the controversy over ownership which had subsided following the British conquest, have resurfaced.
Six companies, 3 belonging to the US and the rest to Europe which are drilling for oil near the islands have come under intense attack from Argentina. The Argentinian court has ordered the seizure of assets of these companies worth about $156 million.
While Argentina, along with its Middle Eastern allies such as Iran accuses UK trawlers of subjecting migrant workers to psychological and physical abuse and plundering Falkland’s natural resources, the US and Britain dub its move as “an orchestrated smear campaign against the islanders.”
The controversies have snowballed further into a geopolitical nightmare as Argentina has decided to restrict the availability of fresh fruit available to the island from neighbouring countries.
Following the economic bullying, prices of food have spiked up drastically, with one apple costing 80 pennies and islanders forced to shell out an exorbitant 6 pounds for a punnet of grapes.
Shouting slogans against the fishing activity in and around the Falkland area has also brought Argentina under a dubious light, as fishing contributes 50 to 60 per cent of Falkland’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP).
Straddling stocks, or fishes which migrate from one water to another in the South Atlantic, are also under dispute. The issue has been reignited after Argentina pulled out of the joint scientific meetings between the two nations in 2005.
“The persistent and ongoing attempts by Argentina to reign in the ownership of the islands are nothing more than bullying tactics precociously bending towards harassment“, say British officials.
To corroborate their views, they point to the 2013 referendum in which Argentina’s call for the islands’ sovereignty, had been overwhelmingly rubbished by the islanders who instead voted for continuation of their present status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
Argentina, on the other hand contends that the resolution was passed by “an implanted population” and accuses Britain of living a “fake reality”.
“Britain wrote the book on colonialism, but now they are trying to tell us this is a case of self-determination”, says Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman.
Also, when Britain which is itself one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council(UNSC) holding veto power passes or supports resolutions at the UN, it seems like a farce miles apart from credible reality.
The membership of the UNSC is undoubtedly a pricking issue that needs to be resolved through expansion of the number of members or quashing it altogether.
The British conflict-of-interest notwithstanding, the undisputed fact is that Argentina should respect the mandate of the people.
For the interest of people living in Falkland Islands, Argentina on its Independence Day, should make a resolution to allow them to live freely without any economic threat.
Geopolitically, the ownership issue can and should be pursued through diplomatic avenues following whose failure people should have the unequivocal right to determine their fate.