An article in La Nacion today has attempted to resurrect the idea that the Falkland Islands can in some way be treated as Hong Kong was back when the lease, that the British held from China, ran out, and that territory was handed back. The author of the piece, Martin Krause, proposes, in something akin to the deal that the British got from the Chinese, that Argentina could agree that nothing changes on the Islands for at least 50 years after which full sovereignty would rest with the South American nation.
This is hardly new, after all, back in the 1970’s the Labour Government of the time hoped to pursue some kind of ‘leaseback’ arrangement whereby there was a period of shared sovereignty before Argentina took full charge of the Falklands.
But there is a problem with this. Yet again the idea fails to take into account the only element of the dispute that really matters – the people. The Falkland Islanders rejected the ‘leaseback’ idea when it was put to them on the basis that they already had (and have) the right to determine their own future as defined in the United Nations Charter, that they knew who they wanted to be and that there was nothing they wanted from Argentina.
And this is the point, Argentina has consistently failed to recognise that the people matter. The Argentine Government do not want the Falkland Islanders to be represented in any talks on the subject of the Islands, whether those talks be about fisheries or sovereignty. They suggest that it is the ‘interests’ of the Islanders that Britain has to take into account and that these ‘interests’ are in some way different from those peoples’ ‘wishes’. An argument based on semantics.
This has been the approach of every Argentine Government since Britain bowed to the United Nations in 1966 and opened negotiations on the basis of the, now long dead, Resolution 2065. Those talks went on for 15 years and faltered simply because Argentina was not prepared to take into account the wishes of the peoples of the Falkland Islands. Of course, once talks faltered Argentina gave up all pretence of considering any interests but their own, and invaded the Islands.
If the attitude of the author of the piece in La Nacion is anything to go by, nothing has changed. Argentina’s claim to the British Overseas Territory is nothing but a blatant attempt at a land grab and the people that live there, and have lived there for generations, do not matter.
Both history and international law favour the argument for British sovereignty, but if they did not, this lack of concern for the views of the Falkland Islanders would be reason enough to ignore Argentina’s spurious claims.