Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 28]

Regional context

The previous posts introduced the notion of contexts in relation to cosmopolitanism and sovereignty.

Any agent (individuals, communities and states) may have presence and be interested in the local, regional and international contexts. In order to bring light to the notion of contexts and their relevance, the blog series will make use of territorial disputes.

This post will introduce and characterize the regional context.

A region[1] can influence both cosmopolitanism and sovereignty. Geographic proximity makes more likely political interaction between states.[2] It also has an impact on bilateral and multilateral relations in regard to conflict and peace.

Territorial disputes directly affect the claiming parties and may also influence other states because of the threat they pose to regional stability and security. For example, more than the disputing parties may be affected by the way in which the resources in a river that travels through several states are used; the development of nuclear weapons; local guerrilla activity; arms, drug and human trafficking; and the flow of refugees. These and other issues can generate local security externalities[3] in the sense that what in principle are local threats to security, or their consequences may cross borders, resulting in bilateral or multilateral security interactions between states. In a similar way, the escalation of an arms race between states that are part in a territorial dispute can change the balance of power in the area.

The traditional geopolitical term of “shatterbelt” refers to a region where conflict may escalate.[4] For this concept, there are some regions that are strategically important for various reasons. These areas may exhibit fragmentation in the form of ethnic issues, border disputes, questions about exploration for and exploitation of natural resources, defense and many others. Therefore, regional fragmentation gives central powers that are not necessarily part of the area the opportunity to establish alliances. Some of the most important issues related to the regional context are:

Geographical location

Any region includes several states. In general, most of the regional states tend to be neutral about a territorial dispute or at least ignored by the claiming parties and central powers.[5] The states in a territorial dispute tend to be regionally important in terms of geostrategic location and defense. For example, while North Vietnam was Soviet and South Vietnam and Thailand were under the control of the United States in the 70s, other states such as Laos, Singapore, and Indonesia were non-aligned. The South China Sea includes several situations. The Paracels are under Chinese control, while the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam hold part of the Spratlies. The area is important to local, regional and international agents because it is the only major sea route connecting East Asia with Africa and Europe.[6]


As in the case of geographical locations, some states are more relevant than others regionally because their territory is resource-rich. For example, Kashmir is geo-strategically important for both India and Pakistan because of its location and the fact it is the main source of water and power generation (electricity).[7] Another area rich in natural resources and the stage to many territorial disputes is the Persian Gulf.[8]


First, the existence of numerous defense bases regionally would be extremely onerous and not efficient. Second, with advances in technology and nuclear weapons, warfare only requires a few select bases.[9] The Falkland/Malvinas Islands are located between Latin America and Africa and, therefore, it might be possible to control maritime transport and sea-lanes in the South Atlantic from them.[10] Moreover, the islands’ location is central to positioning in relation to the resources of Antarctica.[11]

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Domestic context.

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).

Friday 04th June 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] The concept of “region” is vague and open to different meanings. For this monograph, regions are territorially characterized. However, for a more derailed understanding of the term “region” see Alexander B. Murphy, “Regions as Social Construct: The Gap between Theory and Practice,” in Progress in Human Geography 15:1 (1991): 22-35; Giovanni Barbieri, “Regionalism, Globalism and Complexity: a Stimulus Towards Global IR?,” Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal 4:6 (2019): 424-441 available at accessed 04/06/2021.

[2] Kentaro Sakuwa, “The Regional Consequences of Territorial disputes: An Empirical Analysis of the South China Sea Disputes,” in Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 4:3 (2017): 316-336.

[3] David A. Lake, “Regional Security Complexes: A Systems Approach,” in Regional Orders: Building Security in the New World, (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 1997): 45-67; David A. Luke, “Regional Hierarchy: Authority and Local International Order,” in Review of International Studies 35:1 (2009): 35-58.

[4] Philip L. Kelly, “Escalation of Regional Conflict: Testing the Shatterbelt Concept,” in Political Geography Quarterly 5:2 (1986): 161-180.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Choon‐ho Park, “The South China Sea Disputes: Who Owns the Islands and the Natural Resources?” in Ocean Development & International Law 5:1 (1978): 27-59.

[7] Seema Sridhar, “Kashmir and Water: Conflict and Cooperation,” in Swords and Ploughshares, vol. XVI, no. 1 (winter 2007-8): 26-29; Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; A. T. Wolf, “Water Wars and Water Reality: Conflict and Cooperation Along International Waterways”, in S. C. Lonergan, ed., Environmental Change, Adaptation, and Security (Dordrect: Springer, NATO ASI Series 2. Environment), vol 65, 1999).

[8] H. Askari, “Conflicts-Territorial and Resource (Oil, Natural Gas, and Water) Disputes,” in H. Askari, Conflicts in the Persian Gulf (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

[9] Philip L. Kelly, “Escalation of Regional Conflict: Testing the Shatterbelt Concept,” in Political Geography Quarterly 5:2 (1986): 161-180, 174.

[10] Detlef Nolte and Leslie E. Wehner, “Geopolitics in Latin America, Old and New,” in David R. Mares and Arie M. Kacowicz, eds., Routledge Handbook of Latin American Security (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015).

[11] Klaus Dodds and Alan D. Hemmings, “Britain and the British Antarctic Territory in the Wider Geopolitics of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean,” in International Affairs, 89:6 (2013): 1429–1444.

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