Opinion and Analysis
Disputes over islands gain prominence
Posted Monday, October 22 2012 at 22:01
Islands, whether big like Madagascar or small like Nauru, tend to be at the centre of disputes, either as subjects or initiators.
Some islands are within states and are rarely subjects of international disputes.
They are usually extensions of continental states, often separated by few water kilometres. Islands of dispute, however, are often insignificant, found in the frontier zones, and acquire prominence when states quarrel over them.
These include Migingo/Mijingo in Lake Victoria, Malvinas/Falklands in South Atlantic Ocean, Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea, and now Diaoyu/Senkaku in East China Sea.
There are also island countries, not extensions of state at sea, and differ from countries in continental land masses.
These tend to be conscious of their isolation and become aggressive in order to be noticed or at least not to be ignored in discussing geopolitical matters. If other countries are fighting, the separation helps the island country to be safe and to watch the quarrel without getting directly affected.
The separation can also be a drawback in the sense that people appear like outsiders to their continental neighbours.
Some island states develop special identities and become powerhouses.
Three of the most powerful and probably controversial countries of the 19th and 20th Centuries, for instance, were islands.
The three are first Cuba in the Caribbean. Second is Britain in the Atlantic Ocean, just 20 water miles west of continental Europe.
Third is Japan in the Pacific Ocean, east of continental Asia. These had to overcome their isolationism by being aggressive, not meek.
They successfully managed to challenge, and even to thrash, continental powers that were better endowed in terms of territory.
Cuba, victim of imperial machinations, acquired identity of successful defiance of American whims. Located 90 miles away from Florida, Fidel Castro’s communistic experiment survived persistent American pressure to conform.
Cuba was the American excuse for grabbing Spanish imperial claims at the end of the 19th Century in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
It was the reason the United States and the Soviet Union nearly wiped out the world in 1962 before sober heads prevailed. In contrast to Cuba, Britain was successfully imperialistic and even claimed islands next to other countries.