British journalist Simon Jenkins, author of the book The Battle for the Falklands (The battle for the Falklands), published this Friday an opinion column in the British media Guardian about the 40 years of the war with a provocative title which points directly to London’s attitude towards the question of the Malvinas Islands: “British sovereignty over the Malvinas is a absurd imperial hangover that must end“.
When it comes to resolving the conflict, Jenkins, who already in 2010 had stated that sovereignty over the Malvinas was “an expensive imperial legacy” and that the islands should be returned to the country, calls for a lease backa strategy that was proposed in the 1970s and would consist of giving up the sovereignty to Argentina in exchange for free use by the islanders for an extended period of time.
“The solution of leasebackk honors geography, history, diplomacy and economics. It’s common sense. More than 60 million pounds ($78 million) a year in military defense for the islands is not. If London politicians lack the guts to seek a deal with Buenos Aires, perhaps the islanders must face the future and seek one for themselvesyes,” he wrote.
Simon Jenkins’s article in The Guardian referred to British sovereignty in the Falklands. Photo: Internet Capture
Story of a failed negotiation
In the article, Jenkins emphasizes the years prior to the start of the war, when the chances of reaching an agreement on the sovereignty of the islands seemed a real possibility in the framework of the negotiations that were taking place intermittently since the 1960s under the umbrella of the United Nations and its promotion of decolonization.
The journalist rescues the figure of a young member of the government of the then British Prime Minister, John Callaghan, called Ted Rowlands, who in 1977 managed to gain the trust of the islanders and convince them that it was necessary to make some type of concession to Argentina.
It was his proposal lease backing the one that was accepted by the inhabitants of the islands: to grant sovereignty to Argentina, in exchange for the concession to the islanders of the use of the territory for a long period, which at that time it was considered could be 99 years or more.
A bust of Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands. Photo: Fernando of the Order
Jenkins points to the defeat of the Labor Party in 1979 as a key moment that ended up throwing this initiative overboard. Rowlands, the person the islanders trusted, left the government and was replaced by another official. Resistance to an agreement began to grow in the British conservative party, as well as in certain sectors of the island.
“Had it succeeded, war would have been averted, an archaic imperial dispute resolved, and the islanders at peace with their neighbors,” Jenkins writes, adding that while this was going on in London, “a belligerent military regime under the command of General Galtieri took power in Buenos Aires”, and advanced with the invasion.
The journalist also points out that the question of the “self-determination of the islands”, a topic to which London always returns in its speech, is actually “a diversionary maneuver”.
“The islanders are not autonomous, since depend on the goodwill of Britain for their safety. Britain effectively got rid of Aden, Diego Garcia and Hong Kong when it was in the national interest. The islanders were persuaded of the need for a compromise. This was almost done. Britain won the war, but now finds itself having to maintain a military base in the South Atlantic, while all Argentina has to do is smile,” he added.
Echoing the column written by Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero in the same medium, in which he stated that both countries behave “as if the conflict had occurred yesterday”, Jenkins closes with a question in that direction: “Can the United Kingdom overcome the hostility? Couldn’t the two countries, now democracies, at least go back to the Falklands communication agreements of the 1970s?”