India's Antarctica
August 3, 2007 5:47 AM   Subscribe

If Russia gets to claim the North Pole as its own based on geological origins, shouldn't India automatically get Antarctica?

For the record I don't believe the North Pole or South Pole should belong to any single country, just like the moon. I am just asking this question based on Russia's reasoning behind their attempt to claim the North Pole as its own.
posted by riffola to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, India isn't closest to the South Pole. I believe it's either Chile or Argentina. The countries geographically closest to the South Pole have agreed that none of them should own it, as such, and that it should be protected.

That, of course, is disputed. Wikipedia will tell you more than I will.
posted by twirlypen at 6:06 AM on August 3, 2007

Oh. Wow. Sorry, missed the word 'geological' in the question. That changes things.

I'm not sure about Russia's argument, but India didn't have exclusive access to Antarctica before the breakup of Pangea (the last serious supercontinent). Africa and Australia both were connected to it as well. If I remember correctly, India would have separated from the supercontinent before Australia, so by that rationale Antarctica should belong to Australia.

But I guess that's where the Antarctic Treaty (in the link above) comes into play.
posted by twirlypen at 6:11 AM on August 3, 2007

it isn't clear to me what you're asking. why india? india isn't even in the southern hemisphere. also, the north pole is in the middle of the ocean, whereas the south pole is part of an actual continent with land. what is the reasoning you're referring to?

i think it's been pretty clearly recognized by the international community that you can't claim sovereignty over ocean. so yes, obviously, the whole flag-planting stunt is kind of ridiculous.

nevertheless the question of who gets *drilling rights* in a particular part of international waters is a complicated, complicated question that in reality seems to only get answered by political shenanigans.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 6:16 AM on August 3, 2007

The Russians aren't really claiming the north pole. This is a publicity stunt to prepare the rest of the world for when they extend their borders into what is now international waters in the arctic sea. You know oil and stuff...

The argument that India owns Antarctica just because the two landmasses were once joined is just to too silly and not the kind of logic the Russians are using for their claims.
posted by uandt at 6:22 AM on August 3, 2007

Russia is flailing around these days as it struggles with its loss of status in the world. There was a time when it was considered on par with the United States in all ways, but that time is long past.

I think we'll see more stunts like this as Russia's economy continues to swell from the exploitation of its natural resources, especially so long as they slew back towards a totalitarian government.

The fact is, though, they have absolutely no basis for claiming the land under the north pole as part of their territory, no matter how many geological features it shares with their dry land.

So, to answer your question, no, India will not have any claim over Antarctica.
posted by bshort at 6:52 AM on August 3, 2007

Law of the Sea
posted by gimonca at 7:15 AM on August 3, 2007

if it was about planting flags, then norway (roald amundsen) would get antartica. and the united states (neil armstrong) would get the moon.

But Russia's claim here is based on article 2 and 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Continental Shelf (1958). Art 2 states: "The coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights
for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources."
posted by Flood at 7:51 AM on August 3, 2007

When it comes down to it, it's all about claims. India can claim Antarctica just as Russia is claiming the North Pole. In the end, the claim is only worth anything if other countries recognize it. That's where treaties come in. Some are strong treaties. Some are very weak and disputed. Russia makes it claim under a particular UN treaty regarding the continental shelf that I'm not sure would be applicable in the India/Antarctica situation. But even though the treaty that Russia relies on may exist, any country is free to dispute their interpretation or withdraw from the treaty and dispute the claim.

Remember, there is not international law beyond the law of conquest. Any country can take possession over Antarctica at any given time and lay claim to it. Think back to what happened with America. That is how land is claimed, treaties be damned.
posted by dios at 8:05 AM on August 3, 2007

Remember, there is not international law beyond the law of conquest.

This is not really true and is generally only claimed by aggressor states seeking to justify their invasions/conquests. The vast majority of states are quite happy to abide by the rules of international law, and treat the law as, in fact, law.

In fact, you'll recall that as recently as 1991 the U.S. was quite happy to denounce Sadamn's invasion of Kuwait as a violation of international law, while Sadamn proclaimed his rights of conquest. The fact that the current American administration doesn't want its hands tied by international law does not make it less "law" any more than domestic securities laws are not laws simply because of the fact that Conrad Black doesn't want his hands tied by them.

In any event, Russia's continental shelf claim over resources under the North Pole is better placed than any geological claim made by India. It certainly will be an interesting time over the next few decades as Russia, the U.S., and Canada all vie for control over what they can get out of the seabed. Both Canadian and American govts recently announced new funding for icebreaking ships for this very purpose.
posted by modernnomad at 8:24 AM on August 3, 2007

Whoever can claim it and can backup the claim through force wins.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on August 3, 2007

As others have said, Russia's claim didn't have anything to do with geological origins, as much as the extent of it's continental shelf.

Map of the world with continental shelves generally showing up in light blue - clearest around Australia and New Zealand.

Antartica is not attached to India by a continental shelf. In fact, as this map makes clearer, Antartica isn't connected to anywhere by a continental shelf. It is, in fact, it's own continent. So no, based on the efforts Russia is making, India has no claim over Antartica.
posted by Jimbob at 8:57 AM on August 3, 2007

The countries geographically closest to the South Pole have agreed that none of them should own it, as such, and that it should be protected.

No, they, along with France, Norway and the UK have agreed to freeze the dispute for a number of years, while maintaining their claims. Chile and Argentina, for example, show roughly the same slice of Antarctica as sovereign territory on nationally produced maps, and have active settlement and military occupation programs in effect.
posted by signal at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2007

I'm actually sitting in front of a map showing the "Territorio Chileno Antártico".
posted by signal at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I know India is not connected to the same continental shelf, I was just saying one could stretch Russia's reason to give Antarctica to India, because India and Antarctica were once joined. India has not made any claim to either polar regions as far as I know.

I do agree that Russia's move will face serious blocking from other nations, especially the US and Canada.
posted by riffola at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2007

The North Pole doesn't appear to be anywhere near Russia's continental shelf.
posted by gimonca at 9:12 AM on August 3, 2007

Russia claims Arctic land, possibly the best description I've read so far.
posted by gimonca at 9:14 AM on August 3, 2007

Russia may be making a 'geological' argument to buttress its claim, but that won't "get" them a right to the arctic seabed. They'll get the right the old fashioned way -- they'll try to take it, and then they'll try to defend it.
posted by notyou at 11:26 AM on August 3, 2007

Now I'm envisioning Canada, Denmark, and Norway joining forces Superfriends-style to fight the dreaded Russian incursion. Wotta show!
posted by kittyprecious at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2007

This is not really true and is generally only claimed by aggressor states seeking to justify their invasions/conquests. The vast majority of states are quite happy to abide by the rules of international law, and treat the law as, in fact, law.

Um, yeah it is completely true. "International law" as you are defining it is nothing more than assent of the parties; it is a treaty. And like everything else, it can be withdrawn.

A fundamental principle of law is that parties subject to it can't opt-out of it. If that is possible, then it is not law and has not force of law.

The only international law is the law of conquest. If what you are referring to is in fact international law, then it would enforceable absent assent. Clearly that is the not the case. The law of conquest needs no enforcement mechanism or assent, and as such, is in fact a law.
posted by dios at 11:53 AM on August 3, 2007

Obviously Dios and I have a philosophical disagreement here which is too big for this thread and has been argued on both sides for years by minds brighter than ours, no doubt. There's certainly not a definitive argument on either side, as with most jurisprudential questions of legal theory. Thus, the debate continues...

No matter who's right and who's wrong in this argument, I have no doubt territorial/resource exploration over the arctic is going to be a great source academic commentary... should make for some interesting reading! (at least for lawyers like me).
posted by modernnomad at 12:54 PM on August 3, 2007

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