Malvinas, Falklands and the Lines on the Map for the United Kingdom

Viewpoint by Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn

Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. is an ex-diplomat & ALCAP’s Special Adviser for Asia & Africa and Jainendra Karn is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of IDN-InDepth News.

NEW DELHI (IDN) — A recent Tweet by Piers Morgan about the impending and inevitable collapse of the United Kingdom reminded one of the Twitter post made in February 2022 titled “Will British brinkmanship result in Argentina getting Malvinas (Falklands) back in 2023-24?.”

An exchange with the Twitter Falklands Wars: History of the Falkland Islands on the issue was very enriching. It brought back memories of the past interaction with Mateo Abel Brunetti, the then Representative of the Argentine Republic to the MERCOSUR Teen Parliament, PARLASUR who had mentioned that Argentina is waiting since 2003 to have a dialogue with Britain at the United Nations on the Malvinas-Falkland issue.

Jainendra Karn & Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. >

Though the Ukraine-Russia conflict has occupied the global media space since the fag end of February, it seems that the Malvinas-Falklands issue is slowly gaining prominence amongst the international community.

During his visit to New Delhi in April 2022, the Foreign Minister of Argentina Santiago Cafiero, while lauding the Indo-Argentine ties and discussing bilateral issues like defence and atomic energy also raised the Malvinas-Falkland issue.

In his article published on April 2 in The Guardian, Minister Cafiero had claimed that the dispute with Britain was not settled with the “cessation of hostilities” in 1982 and urged for resumption of bilateral dialogue.

There is indeed merit in his argument that the mere outcome of an armed conflict between Argentina and Britain cannot settle a territorial dispute like the Malvinas-Falkland Islands.

In the beginning of the 20th century when Britannia ruled the waves, Argentina was one of the wealthiest places on the planet. In 1913, Argentina was richer than France or Germany, almost twice as prosperous as Spain.

With the rise of the US in the 20th century, just like Britain, Argentina also gradually lost this place of privilege. The country failed to generate growth supporting institutions despite its wealth and also a series of adverse external shocks disfavored its erstwhile successful growth model.

The rise of the US which once was also a British colony inspired many other countries to draw inspiration from the American independence struggle. In his call to Indians to resist British domination, Mahatma Gandhi often referred to and drew inspiration from the American Revolution.

In fact, Gandhi’s non-violent and peaceful activism against the British resulted in America’s interest in the Indian independence movement. The US administration was not prepared to support the British colonial rule over India for all times and the US Congress, media and public remained steadfast in support of India’s cause.

A resolution moved by Senator John J Blain of Wisconsin on July 17, 1930 instructed the State Department to ensure a just and peaceful settlement of the Indian situation. He condemned Britain’s India policy for being responsible for “the most atrocious repression and inhuman conduct.”

The pressure of US opinion, the anti-imperialist stand of the Soviet Union, and Chinese support for the cause of India’s freedom (China was then ruled by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek) forced Britain to agree in principle that transfer of power to India was ‘sine qua non’ at the end of the war.

On April 14, 2022, Russia urged Argentina and Britain to resume sovereignty talks over the Falkland Islands in order to settle the dispute about sovereignty in accordance with the UN resolutions. China has also proclaimed support for Argentina’s claims to the Falkland Islands.

The UK objected to China backing Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands and the British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was quick to flatly reject ‘any questions over the sovereignty of the Falklands;’ the salient question remains whether contemporary Britain is in any position of influence or significance to make the winds blow its own way.

In December 2020, UK General Government Gross Debt was £2,206.5 billion, or 104.5% of its GDP. As the UK inflation reaches 7% in 2022 there is a great risk that half a million children will be plunged into poverty. The cost of living crisis could push more than a million into deprivation in Britain.

Poverty is on a steady rise in Britain and not only the UK Poverty Report 2022 but also the Institute of Development Studies makes a stark mention of it. It was truly appalling that 22 % of the British population was living in poverty even before the pandemic but the Covid-19 crisis has driven disadvantaged households further into poverty.

The recent episode of the councillor Diana Butler of UKIP, the party which successfully lead the British independence from the EU through its BREXIT campaign, shows that there is a significant dissonance in Britain and the British public over important international strategic issues.

Britain is amongst the leading voices for economic sanctions against Russia but as the conflict in Ukraine heads for its third month, the Russian Ruble has become the world’s top-performing currency against the US Dollar while Russia has almost doubled its monthly earnings from selling fossil fuels to the EU.

Diana Butler had claimed that the Russian attack on Ukraine might have been provoked by the actions of the Ukraine Government while the British public is more likely to think BREXIT has strengthened Britain’s Response to the Ukraine crisis than weakened it.

Britain’s past is blemished because of its history of colonization, slavery, rapacious loot, pillage and exploitation on an unprecedented scale, and continued mischief and irresponsibility even as a P-5 member of the United Nations.

It’s not only the recent fiasco in Afghanistan but also supporting Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladeshi genocide that led to the creation of Bangladesh, the list of British shenanigans worldwide is endless.

It is very easy for Britain to blame the US for the invasion of Iraq and for Tony Blair to convert to Roman Catholicism to wash off his sins that lead to the death and destruction of the innocent, but are these mark of a responsible nation, especially that is a P-5 member.

The United Nations specifically acknowledged the Malvinas Falklands territorial dispute in 1965 and set out Resolution 2065, encouraging urgent negotiations between Argentina and Britain.

There have been renewed demands from the region to acknowledge Argentina’s call to discuss sovereignty over the Falklands islands such as from the Latin American and Caribbean parliament but Britain has refused to negotiate time and again, which Argentina posits is not in “compliance with international law.”

Whether UK could be ‘plunged into the sea’ by an underwater Russian nuclear strike is a rhetorical question but things coming to such a state is not only a sad commentary on the failure of international diplomacy, dialogue and peacekeeping in the 21st century but also of the growing irrelevance of Britain and Europe which were once sort of backwater of Asia and their peoples among the poorest people in the world.

Hanging on in quiet desperation might be the English way but will it help when the writing on the wall says that the lines on the map might move not only from side to side but also from north to south.

All this could not have come at a worse time. The Office for Budget Responsibility predicts that real household incomes in Britain would fall by 2.2% in 2022 and that Britons would experience the largest fall in living standards since records began in 1956. Surging inflation has forced cash strapped mourning Britons to rent coffins before having their loved ones buried in cardboard.

Peace is the only pathway to progress and prosperity. And who better an apostle of peace and non-violence than Mahatma Gandhi on whose birthday the UN observes the International Day of Non-Violence on October 2 every year.

Even Britain recognized the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi by unveiling his statute in Westminster’s Parliament Square in 2015 albeit next to that of Winston Churchill whose hatred of Mahatma Gandhi and Indians is well known.

Who knows if Britain following the path of peace as shown by Mahatma Gandhi might acquiesce to giving Falklands to Argentina just like British India was made to create and agreed to give Pakistan for its Muslim population through India Independence Act of 1947 duly passed by the British parliament? Anything is possible.

Sinn Féin is set to be the biggest political force for the first time in a century and the issue of Irish re-unification is already in the air with the elections in Northern Ireland. Britons like Piers Morgan openly predict the “inevitable collapse” of the United Kingdom.

But the world cannot afford to have another flashpoint in the aftermath of the conflict in Ukraine. Another 78-day long Falklands War between Britain and Argentina like in 1982 is unimaginable and would be a catastrophe in the 21st century.

And for a rapidly declining power like Britain which is a pale shadow of its past, the sooner it goes for the settlement of its international conflicts, the better it is. Any passage of time will only diminish and weaken its ability to negotiate and bargain because procrastination as a policy measure only brings diminishing returns.

During the recent visit of Argentina’s Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero to India, the Commission for the Dialogue on the Question of the Malvinas Islands was launched by the Government of Argentina.

The Commission seeks to promote compliance with the resolutions of the United Nations and the declarations of other international fora on the Question of the Malvinas Islands, which call for the resumption of negotiations between Argentina and Britain.

Settlement of international disputes and maintaining peace and security is a must for the international community. The UN Charter seeks for pacific settlement of disputes and the UN has always recommended diplomacy and  advocated dialogue for peaceful settlement of disputes.

The pursuit of peace is more important now than ever, and the sooner the Malvinas-Falklands dispute is settled, the better it is for both countries- Britain and Argentina-, their peoples and for the world. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 May 2022]

Photo: The British destroyer HMS Coventry (D118) underway in the Atlantic Ocean, circa 1981. In the background is the U.S. Navy frigate USS Bagley (FF-1069). Wikimedia Commons.

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