Prince William of Wales, and second-in-line to the throne is ruffling Argentinian feathers as he is gearing up for a “routine rotation” of his search-and-rescue duties with the Royal Air Force as a helicopter pilot. The issue at stake is the timing. The countries have exchanged angry words over the upcoming anniversary of the attempted Argentinian takeover of the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas Islands, 30 years ago.
"The Argentinian people are disappointed that the heir to the throne is arriving on sovereign soil dressed in the uniform of a conquistador, and not with the wisdom of a statesman who works for peace and dialogue between nations," Argentina's foreign relations ministry said in a statement entitled "More diplomacy, fewer weapons.”
The failed invasion of the islands in 1982 left 600 Argentinian and 200 British soldiers dead.
Argentina’s statement to Prime Minister David Cameron continued in a chastising vein: "Governments should avoid the temptation to indulge in speeches that transform patriotism into jingoism with the aim of distracting the public's attention from economic policies ... and high unemployment," the official Argentine statement said.
The tiny group of islands off the coast of Argentina have been disputed by the two nations for two centuries. Following the 1982 attempt to wrestle control from the British, The Argentinian dictatorship was weakened after the humiliating defeat, and since then, Argentina has had little desire for military conflict. That does not mean, however, that it stands staunchly by its claims. The nation hopes diplomatic and economic measures will pressure Britain to comply with United Nations resolutions encouraging both countries to negotiate the islands' sovereignty.
Some of the pressure tactics include a ban by South America's Mercosur nations (such as Brazil and Venezuela) on any Falklands-flagged vessels entering their ports. Prime Minister David Cameron responded that such actions have "colonialist" aims on an island population that wants to remain a British dependency.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez called Cameron’s statements "mediocrity bordering on stupidity."
Harsh? Perhaps. From a dispassionate outsider’s point of view, Britain loses the argument. For starters, to call Argentinian aspirations “colonial” is foolish and insulting, given that the nation, as is true of the entire continent, is a former colony – even if it was not British – and has won its sovereignty through a prolonged struggle for independence. For another, the British focus on maintaining control of the tiny island archipelago on the other side of the world looks, well, ridiculous. The islands are as British as fajitas on a crumpet.
The British claim on the islands betrays, perhaps, Britain’s obsessive hold on its colonial past – and its loss of its colonies as a loss of a certain anatomical prowess. What else would prompt Foreign Secretary William Hague to declare that Britain is sending one of its most modern warships, the destroyer HMS Dauntless, to the Falklands, and that "the Royal Navy packs a very considerable punch”?
The Falklands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean on a projection of the Patagonian continental shelf about 288 miles off the coast of Argentina. It has a total land area is 4,700 square miles and about 800 miles of coastline. Sheep farming and fishing are its main economic activities, although recent British deep-sea explorations for oil may make the area more hotly contestable.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons