Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 16]

Asia: natives and settlers

Asia includes two of the largest and most populated states in the world, China and India. There are several agents of very different natures (sovereign states, cultures, subcultures, religions, individuals with their own individual and collective interests) in the domestic, regional and international context.

On the regional level, two points are worth noting. Firstly, the competing interest of neighbor states and populations include issues related to the territory itself (e.g. natural resources, borders, defense); population (e.g. minorities’ rights, migration, asylum seekers, nationalism); and government (e.g. leader’s internal prestige directly linked to the state’s regional relevance in terms of, for example, security). Secondly, the existence of an intergovernmental organization, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The organization includes references in law to the equality between Member States in the participation of the institutions and decision-making processes. Nevertheless, legally recognized equality does not translate into factual equality and, therein, ASEAN includes states with different bargaining power.

On the international context, there are several strong states such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, China, Japan and some others that have a constant presence—i.e. financially, militarily, politically, etc. —in disputes that have little to do with their own legally defined domestic jurisdiction.

Kashmir is a case that on the surface has a domestic dimension centered on sociological issues at stake such as religion. Kashmir ranks amongst the ten most prominent territorial disputes in the world for several reasons in terms of intensity and magnitude.[1] Evidently, religious tension has been often the cause of social struggle in Kashmir when one dominant group has oppressed the minorities. In actual percentages, the Muslims represent 67% of the population whereas the Hindus represent almost 30%.[2] Despite its relevance, religious tension is not a necessary or sufficient condition for the perennial and volatile nature of this difference. Indeed, this territorial dispute presents several other relevant issues at stake.

The highly complex area of the South China Sea has several agents in the domestic, regional and international contexts. With $3.37 trillion total trade in 2016 and 40% of the global liquefied natural gas trade transited through the area in 2017[3] the South China Sea presents a tremendously complex geopolitical jigsaw with many issues at stake including sovereignty claims made by several agents.

Timor is divided between West Timor (under Indonesian sovereignty) and the independent East Timor.[4] In colonial times, the western side was under Dutch sovereignty and the eastern side was under Portuguese sovereignty. After Dutch and Portuguese withdrawal in 1949 and 1975, respectively, Indonesia took control of the island. While being in control of the island, Indonesia placed settlers in East Timor. The United States supported Indonesian expansion in the area. Although independent since 2002, the now Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste still experiences unresolved issues.[5]

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Europe: natives and settlers

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Wednesday 05th May 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] “Approaches to Solving Territorial Conflicts. Sources, Situations, and Suggestions,” May 2010, Atlanta: The Carter Center, available at accessed 05/05/2021. See also Dzurek, Daniel J. 1999-2000. “What Makes Some Boundary Disputes Important?,” IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin, 83-95; the author updated and expanded this work in the 2005 article “What Makes Territory Important: Tangible and Intangible Dimensions,” GeoJournal, 64: 263-274.

[2] Census India 2001 complete data available at accessed 05/05/2021.

[3] Global Conflict Tracker by Council of Foreign Relations!/conflict/territorial-disputes-in-the-south-china-sea accessed 05/05/2021.

[4] Ehud Eiran, “The Indonesian Settlement Project in East Timor,” in Oded Haklai and Neophytos Loizides, eds., Settlers in Contested Lands. Territorial Disputes and Ethnic Conflicts (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2015), 97-113.

[5] Tuames Fransiskus Asisi Ninnomen, “Identifying Determinants of Border Conflicts between Indonesia and East Timor in Unresolved and Un-surveyed segment, Timor Tengah Utara District,” International Journal of Research in Social Sciences 8:2 (2019): 702-715.

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