As the 30th Anniversary of the 1982 conflict between Britain and Argentina approaches, the Falklands dispute is yet again making waves.
There has been little respite in the increasingly bellicose huffing and puffing emitting from Buenos Aires in recent months, levelling accusations of colonialism at Britain on account of its retention of ‘Las Malvinas’, over which Argentina itself claims sovereignty.
Tensions began rising in February 2010, when a British company commenced drilling for oil in the Falkland Islands’ territorial waters. Argentina responded by threatening to take “adequate measures” against this egregious assertion of sovereign rights, and declared its intention to impose restrictions on shipping in the area.
In November of last year, this rhetoric was matched with aggressive action, when the Argentine navy boarded a Spanish fishing vessel that it accused of operating “illegally” in the South Atlantic. The following month, they went one further, clubbing together with Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to close their ports to any vessel flying the Falklands flag. The fact that one of these countries, Paraguay, is landlocked did not seem to bother this Latin American quartet too much.
In response to these actions, David Cameron yesterday approved contingency plans for a rapid increase in Britain’s military presence in the Falklands, reasserting once again that the islands’ sovereignty is not up for negotiation.
He also turned Buenos Aires’s traditional protestations on their head and asserted that it is not Britain, but Argentina, that is guilty of colonialism. And he is absolutely right.
Anyone wishing to determine which country can rightfully claim sovereignty need look no further than the Article 1.2 of the Charter of the United Nations which explicitly upholds “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”. This is a clear rejection of imperialistic notions that the government of one nation has the right to claim sovereignty over the peoples of another state or territory against the latter’s will.
Under those conditions, who then is the imperialist, Argentina or the United Kingdom? The answer could not be clearer: Argentina is the imperialist. The desire of the Falkland Islanders themselves to remain British is almost universal.
The question of geographical proximity is irrelevant. It is a modification of the ‘saltwater fallacy’ employed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War to criticise the imperialism of Britain and France, whilst maintaining its own empire in Eastern Europe. If geographical proximity was what mattered, then Alaska should be a part of Canada and not the United States. Ridiculous, no?
No more ridiculous than Argentina’s completely baseless claims to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. As and when the Falkland Islanders express their wish to become Argentine (a wish, incidentally, which recedes ever further into the distance with each act of Argentine aggression) then there will be something to debate. In the meantime, can somebody please hand Christina Kirchner a copy of the UN Charter?