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  • Bhupinder Singh

Resurgence of Territorial and Maritime Disputes: Strategic Pursuit of Political-Legal Mechanisms of Resolution Lensing International Arbitration in a Globalized World


Territorial and maritime disputes have seen resurgence, posing significant challenges to international relations and security. In an era marked by heightened global interconnectedness and complex geopolitical dynamics, the resurgence of territorial and maritime disputes has emerged as a critical challenge on the international stage. This multifaceted issue demands a nuanced examination, as it intersects with both historical grievances and contemporary strategic considerations. Amidst this backdrop, the pursuit of political-legal mechanisms of resolution, particularly through international arbitration, has gained prominence as a means to address these disputes in a peaceful and equitable manner. [i] In a world increasingly characterized by interdependence and cooperation, understanding the complexities and strategies involved in resolving these disputes through legal channels is of paramount importance. It explores the resurgence of territorial and maritime disputes and delves into the strategic pursuit of political-legal mechanisms of resolution, highlighting the evolving role of international arbitration in shaping our globalized world. [ii]

Understanding Territorial and Maritime Disputes

Territorial and maritime disputes arise from conflicting claims over land or water territories between states. These disputes often have historical, political, economic, and strategic dimensions, making them highly complex and sensitive. Factors such as resource exploitation, sovereignty, national security, and geopolitical interests further complicate the resolution process. Territorial and maritime disputes represent a recurring and intricate challenge in international relations. These disputes typically revolve around claims and counterclaims over specific land territories or bodies of water, often driven by historical, political, economic, and even strategic factors. [iii] Understanding the dynamics of such disputes requires a multifaceted approach. Firstly, historical context plays a significant role, as many territorial disputes have deep roots in colonial legacies, treaties, or unresolved conflicts from the past. These historical dimensions often fuel nationalistic sentiments and further complicate the resolution process.

Secondly, the political aspect is undeniable. Governments engage in territorial disputes to assert sovereignty, garner domestic support, or divert attention from internal issues. The strategic positioning of territories or control over vital maritime routes can have far-reaching implications for a nation's security and economic interests. This often leads to heightened tensions and even militarization in some cases, making the resolution of these disputes an urgent global concern. [iv]

Economic interests also factor prominently into these disputes. Control over maritime zones, rich in resources such as fisheries, oil, or minerals, can be a driving force behind territorial and maritime claims. The economic potential of these areas creates strong incentives for states to assert their rights, and this competition can escalate conflicts. Also, globalization has transformed the dynamics of these disputes. In a world characterized by increased connectivity, the stakes in territorial and maritime disputes are higher than ever. [v] These disputes have global implications, affecting trade routes, energy security, and the stability of international relations. As such, they necessitate international cooperation and the pursuit of legal mechanisms for resolution, such as international arbitration, to ensure peaceful and equitable outcomes.

The territorial and maritime disputes are not isolated incidents but rather complex, intertwined issues that involve historical legacies, political maneuvering, economic interests, and global repercussions. To navigate this intricate landscape successfully, it is imperative to comprehend the multifaceted nature of these disputes and the evolving strategies employed to address them in our ever-globalizing world. [vi]

The Resurgence of Disputes

The resurgence of disputes, both territorial and maritime, underscores the enduring complexities of our globalized world. In recent years, these disputes have reemerged with renewed vigor, often fueled by historical grievances, competing national interests, and shifting geopolitical alliances. The resurgence of disputes is indicative of the continued relevance of territorial and maritime claims as a means for nations to assert their sovereignty and safeguard their economic interests. Furthermore, these disputes reflect the challenges of maintaining stability and peace in an interconnected world, where the consequences of unresolved conflicts can reverberate far beyond national borders. As international relations evolve, it becomes increasingly crucial to navigate these disputes with diplomacy, legal mechanisms, and a commitment to peaceful resolution, recognizing that the resurgence of disputes is a reflection of the intricate web of interests and power dynamics that define our contemporary global landscape. In recent years, territorial and maritime disputes have experienced a resurgence due to various factors. The increasing competition for natural resources, including oil, gas, and fisheries, has intensified the importance of claiming and controlling disputed territories. Additionally, geopolitical rivalries, nationalism, and historical grievances have fueled tensions between nations, leading to the reemergence of territorial and maritime disputes. [vii]

Political-Legal Mechanisms of Resolution

International arbitration has gained prominence as an effective political-legal mechanism for resolving territorial and maritime disputes. Unlike traditional diplomatic negotiations, international arbitration provides a neutral and impartial platform for parties to present their cases. The decision-making process is guided by international law, treaties, and conventions, ensuring a fair and objective assessment of the dispute. Political-legal mechanisms of resolution stand as a beacon of hope in the turbulent seas of international disputes. In a world where territorial and maritime conflicts persist, these mechanisms offer a path towards peaceful coexistence and justice. Through diplomatic negotiations, international treaties, and arbitration, nations can address their differences within a structured framework that upholds the rule of law and international norms. [viii] The strategic pursuit of such mechanisms signifies a departure from the volatile and often destructive alternatives, such as military confrontation. Instead, it promotes a civilized approach to dispute resolution, where decisions are based on legal principles, fairness, and the collective wisdom of the international community. These mechanisms represent not only a pragmatic tool for resolving disputes but also a testament to the shared aspiration of nations to foster stability and cooperation in an interconnected world. As the global community grapples with the complexities of territorial and maritime disputes, the utilization of political-legal mechanisms remains an essential strategy in building a more peaceful and harmonious international order.

Advantages of International Arbitration

International arbitration offers several advantages in resolving territorial and maritime disputes. Firstly, it provides a peaceful and non-confrontational means of settling disputes, reducing the risk of escalation into armed conflicts. Secondly, arbitration offers flexibility, allowing parties to tailor the resolution process to their specific needs. This flexibility promotes a sense of ownership and encourages compliance with the final decision. Finally, international arbitration decisions are binding, giving them legal weight and enforceability. [ix] International arbitration offers a range of advantages that make it an attractive alternative to traditional litigation in resolving cross-border disputes. Firstly, it provides a neutral and impartial forum, typically chosen by the disputing parties, which minimizes concerns about favoritism or bias that can arise in national courts. This neutrality fosters trust and confidence in the resolution process. Secondly, arbitration proceedings are often more efficient and expedient than litigation, as they can be tailored to the specific needs of the parties, leading to quicker outcomes. Additionally, arbitration provides a degree of confidentiality, preserving sensitive commercial information and maintaining the privacy of the parties involved. This confidentiality is especially crucial for businesses seeking to protect their interests and reputations. Moreover, arbitration decisions are generally enforceable internationally under conventions like the New York Convention, ensuring that awards are respected and upheld across borders. Lastly, the expertise of arbitrators, often selected for their familiarity with the subject matter of the dispute, ensures that cases are adjudicated by individuals with relevant knowledge and experience. [x] These advantages collectively make international arbitration a preferred method for resolving disputes in the globalized and interconnected world, offering a fair, efficient, and dependable means of achieving resolution while preserving the interests of the involved parties.

Challenges and Limitations

While international arbitration offers significant benefits, it is not without its challenges and limitations. One major challenge is the voluntary participation of disputing parties, as not all states are willing to submit their disputes to arbitration. Additionally, the enforcement of arbitration decisions can be problematic, especially when parties refuse to comply. Moreover, the complexity of territorial and maritime disputes requires comprehensive expertise and resources, which may pose challenges to the effectiveness of the arbitration process. Despite its many advantages, international arbitration is not without its challenges and limitations. [xi] One significant challenge lies in the potential for a lack of transparency in the arbitration process. Unlike litigation, which is often conducted in open court, arbitration proceedings are private, which can lead to concerns about the fairness of the process and the accountability of arbitrators. Additionally, while the expertise of arbitrators is a strength, it can also be a limitation if they lack impartiality or if their decisions are perceived as biased. Another challenge is the potential for high costs associated with international arbitration, including fees for arbitrators, legal representation, and administrative expenses. [xii]These costs can be prohibitive for smaller businesses or less financially robust parties, limiting their access to the process and potentially skewing outcomes in favor of wealthier disputants. Enforcement of arbitral awards can also be a challenge, particularly if one of the parties is reluctant to comply. Although the New York Convention facilitates the enforcement of awards across borders, some jurisdictions may still present obstacles, leading to delays and additional legal expenses. Finally, the binding nature of arbitration can limit the opportunities for appeal or review, potentially leaving parties with no recourse if they believe the decision was erroneous or unjust. While international arbitration offers numerous benefits in resolving disputes, it is essential to acknowledge and address these challenges and limitations to ensure fairness, accessibility, and the effective enforcement of arbitration awards on the global stage. [xiii]


The resurgence of territorial and maritime disputes in our globalized world underscores the need for a nuanced and strategic approach to conflict resolution. The multifaceted nature of these disputes, driven by historical, political, economic, and strategic factors, calls for innovative solutions that prioritize peace, stability, and cooperation among nations. The strategic pursuit of political-legal mechanisms, particularly through international arbitration, holds promise as a means to navigate these complex disputes. Such mechanisms offer a path toward peaceful coexistence, guided by the principles of fairness, impartiality, and the rule of law. As the world continues to evolve in an era of increasing interdependence, the role of international arbitration in shaping the resolution of territorial and maritime disputes is likely to become even more prominent. [xiv]

Looking ahead, the future scope of addressing these disputes through international arbitration appears promising. With advancements in technology and legal frameworks, arbitration can become more efficient, transparent, and accessible. Efforts to enhance the enforceability of arbitral awards and promote international cooperation in dispute resolution will remain crucial. Additionally, greater efforts in public diplomacy and education about the benefits of arbitration can foster a culture of peaceful dispute resolution among nations. [xv] As it move forward, the strategic pursuit of political-legal mechanisms in a globalized world should remain a cornerstone of international relations, contributing to a more peaceful and prosperous future for nations and peoples alike. In an increasingly globalized world, the resurgence of territorial and maritime disputes demands innovative approaches to resolution. International arbitration emerges as a strategic pursuit of political-legal mechanisms to address these disputes peacefully. By offering a neutral and impartial platform, international arbitration promotes fairness and objectivity in the resolution process. While challenges persist, the potential for peaceful dispute resolution through international arbitration remains significant, contributing to global stability and cooperation.

By Dr. Bhupinder Singh

*** The views expressed herein belong solely to the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of JTMS or Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies. ***

[i] Allee, Todd L., and Paul K. Huth. "The Pursuit of legal settlements to territorial disputes." Conflict Management and Peace Science 23, no. 4 (2006): 285-307.

[ii] Copeland, Carla S. "The use of arbitration to settle territorial disputes." Fordham L. Rev. 67 (1998): 3073.

[iii] Powell, Emilia Justyna, and Krista E. Wiegand. "Strategic selection: Political and legal mechanisms of territorial dispute resolution." Journal of Peace Research 51, no. 3 (2014): 361-374.

[iv] Malintoppi, Loretta. "Methods of dispute resolution in inter-state litigation: when states go to arbitration rather than adjudication." The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals 5, no. 1 (2006): 133-162.

[v] Gent, Stephen E. "The politics of international arbitration and adjudication." Penn St. JL & Int'l Aff. 2 (2013): 66.

[vi] Allee, Todd L., and Paul K. Huth. "Legitimizing dispute settlement: International legal rulings as domestic political cover." American Political Science Review 100, no. 2 (2006): 219-234.

[vii] Lamm, Carolyn B., Eckhard R. Hellbeck, and Nikolaos Tsolakidis. "International Arbitration in a Globalized World." Disp. Resol. Mag. 20 (2013): 4.

[viii] Hornle, Julia. Cross-border internet dispute resolution. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

[ix] Powell, Emilia Justyna, and Krista E. Wiegand. "Strategic selection: Political and legal mechanisms of territorial dispute resolution." Journal of Peace Research 51, no. 3 (2014): 361-374.

[x] Gambon, Helen, and Stephan Rist. "Moving territories: strategic selection of boundary concepts by Indigenous people in the Bolivian Amazon-an element of constitutionality?." Human ecology 46 (2018): 27-40.

[xi] Powell, Emilia Justyna, and Krista E. Wiegand. "Legal systems and peaceful attempts to resolve territorial disputes." Conflict Management and Peace Science 27, no. 2 (2010): 129-151.

[xii] Powell, Emilia Justyna, and Krista E. Wiegand. "The Peaceful Resolution of Territorial and Maritime Disputes." (2023).

[xiii] Hansen, Holley E., Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, and Stephen C. Nemeth. "IO mediation of interstate conflicts: Moving beyond the global versus regional dichotomy." Journal of conflict resolution 52, no. 2 (2008): 295-325.

[xiv] Lefler, Vanessa. "Let's Talk: Forum Selection in Dispute Resolution." In APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. 2009.

[xv] Sumner, Brian Taylor. "Territorial disputes at the International Court of Justice." Duke LJ 53 (2003): 1779.

[xvi] Huth, Paul K., Sarah E. Croco, and Benjamin J. Appel. "Bringing law to the table: Legal claims, focal points, and the settlement of territorial disputes since 1945." American Journal of Political Science 57, no. 1 (2013): 90-103.

[xvii] Kohen, Marcelo G., and Mamadou Hébié, eds. Research handbook on territorial disputes in international law. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018.



Dr. Bhupinder Singh


Sharda School of Law

Sharda University Greater Noida, India


Dr. Bhupinder Singh working as Professor in Sharda School of Law, Sharda University Greater Noida, India. Also, Honorary Professor in Santo Tomas University Tunja, Colombia. He has 3 books, 97 paper publications, 163 paper presentations in international/national conferences and seminars, participated in more than 40 workshops/FDP's/QIP's, 25 courses from international universities of repute, organized more than 59 events with international and national academicians and industry people’s, editor-in-chief and co-editor in journals, developed new courses. He has given talks at international universities, resource person in international conferences such as in Nanyang Technological University Singapore, Tashkent State University of Law Uzbekistan; KIMEP University Kazakhstan, All’ah meh Tabatabi University Iran, the Ianian Association of International Criminal law, Iran and Hague Center for International Law and Investment, The Netherlands, Northumbria University Newcastle UK, Taylor's University Malaysia, AFM Krakow University Poland, European Institute for Research and Development Georgia,  Business and Technology University Georgia, Texas A & M University US name a few. His leadership, teaching, research and industry experience is of 16 years and 3 Months.

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