The Falkland Islands lie just 480 km to the west of the Atlantic Coastline of Argentina. They cover an area of around 12,000 square km and are split between East Falkland and West Falkland. The Argentinian people call the Islands the Malvinas and the population of 2,930 inhabitants consists mainly of people who were born there.
In theory the Malvinas belong to the British yet due to its location they play a major role in the everyday workings of the country. They offer a constant painful reminder of some of the battles that have been lost as Argentina have tried to win sovereignty of the territory. The English speaking Islands are a fairly hostile environment to live in but their location has meant that for a number of years both countries have passionately promoted their claims for sovereignty. This led to the 1982 Falklands War which resulted in claiming the lives of 907 people.
The Falklands are actually a British overseas territory, which means that they have internal self-governance, yet the UK accepts responsibility for their defense. The Argentinians claim that the Island lie within the country’s international boundaries so they belong to them.
First colonized in 1764 by the French the islands were controlled by France and Spain until the British took control in 1840 with the country becoming a Crown Colony. The country became fully independent in 1881 with Port Stanley acting as the capital of the Island.
Aside from a bit of fishing, the Island was popular with the British as it was an ideal location in the vast South Atlantic Ocean for the country’s ships to undergo repairs. Sheep farming became popular on the island and most of the local population gained employment in this area, especially when much of the ship trade was lost as a result of the opening of the Panama Canal. During both World Wars in the 20th century the Falklands were useful in supplying fuel to the British Navy and in 1914 the Germans were defeated as five of their boats were sunk by the British just off the Island.
After the Second World the Argentinian president Juan Peron intensified his country’s efforts to claim sovereignty and the tension became so fierce that in April 1982 the country invaded the Islands. Britain responded by sending a task force of 127 ships which recaptured the Island on the 14th June 1982.
Since the conflict the Island has diversified its economy by starting new enterprises such as eco-tourism and fisheries. The Island has improved its road infrastructure and now has now a permanent UK armed presence with a garrison at RAF Mount Pleasant. The main reason why the Islands are so keenly prized by both the governments of Argentina and Britain is their location to the unexploited huge oil reserves in the South Atlantic. While both countries can justify some claims towards sovereignty their arguments are not that solid or the dispute would have been settled years ago by the international community.
Basically the British are trying to claim a territory in Argentina’s back yard. Meanwhile the Argentinians have never had a peaceful settlement on the Islands. Neither has a solid argument claim but the oil and fishing riches are so great that neither government are willing to back down.
The diplomatic dispute continues today and although it is simmering under the surface it is only a matter of time when it reappears. The Falklands may not be the most captivating islands in the world yet few have been so fiercely fought for.