Why Borders Matter

The Sykes-Picot line, separating Syria and Iraq. Image: Royal Geographical Society/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 23 July, 2015.

Events in the Middle East seem to make some commentators and officials forget the fact that borders matter—everywhere, including the Middle East.  Most borders reflect the vagaries and irrationalities of history.  Sometimes they look arbitrary—history does not usually produce straight lines.  Borders frame states, and states are the constituents of the international system and order.  Borders bound sovereignty.  Their recognition implies acceptance of power within boundaries.  For these reasons alone, governments and commentators should take them seriously and be wary of too-easy calls to change them.  Just look at the Balkan bloodbaths of the last 150 years for examples other than those in Iraq and Syria of what can happen when borders are torn up or control of borders becomes a politico-military issue.  In short, borders are at the heart of international peace, order, and prosperity. » More

‘You Have to Neutralise Terrorists through Terrorists’: Is There a Method to This Madness?

Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar addresses the media during the Naval Commanders’ Conference 2015. Image: Indian Navy/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Strife on 2 June 2015.

While attending a function in New Delhi On May 21st, India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said ‘You have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists’. He was referring to the threats to Indian national security from an alleged Pakistan sponsored proxy war. It was a profound statement, as it came from a defence minister of a right-wing nationalist government that came into power with an absolute majority riding on the election promises of giving a befitting reply to provocations originating in Pakistan. » More

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Stormy Waters? The Maritime Border Disputes between Bolivia, Chile and Peru

Map of the maritime claims of Ecuador, Peru, and surrounding countries. Source: Political Geography Now via Wikimedia Commons

International boundaries are often blurred by the processes of globalization, but in South America some maritime borders remain contested. For instance, Chile and Peru, neighbors that have enjoyed sustained economic development over the past few years, remain at odds over approximately 38,000 square kilometers of sea located along their maritime border.

Bilateral negotiations between the two countries were first held in 1980 but no agreement was reached. In 2008, Peru took the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which, in turn, considered the issue at a public hearing in December 2012. The ICJ is expected to make a ruling on the dispute in mid-2013.

In the meantime, Peru continues to argue that the maritime border has not yet been defined by any agreement, with documents signed in the 1950s only relating to access to fishing grounds.  Lima also claims that maritime limits should run diagonally south-west from the land border. » More