Land Locked State: Understand The Unique Challenges of Landlocked Nations

This article is written by Dev Bansal a student of Lovely Professional University.

During World War I and World War II, there has been a noticeable shift in the focus when it comes to the unique issues faced by land-locked states. There were only four independent land-locked states outside of Europe before 1914: Ethiopia (which became a coastal state after federating and later absorbing Eritrea in 1952), Bolivia (which had only been land-locked since 1879), Paraguay (which had access to the sea via an internationally navigable river), and Afghanistan (which did not become fully sovereign until 1919). Only Bolivia, out of them, had sizable international commerce and, at least from 1904, had sufficient access to the sea.

A network of internationalised rivers, special transit rights, free zones in ports, and other agreements had been successfully developed by the landlocked and transit governments of Europe to ensure the comparatively unrestricted movement of people and products between the landlocked states and the sea. By the eve of the Great War, the numerous grave and frustrating issues regarding Europe’s access to the sea had been mostly resolved in one way or another. Since then, there have only been a few significant issues with access to the sea, and these have mostly been resolved in line with accepted norms.

Historical background


  • A landlocked state is typically surrounded by other countries and does not have a coastline.
  • The absence of coastline limits direct maritime trade routes and access to international waters.
  • Landlocked states often face challenges in transportation, trade, and economic development due to their geographic isolation.

Examples of landlocked states

  • Nepal– Nestled in the Himalayas, Nepal is a classic example of a landlocked state entirely surrounded by India to the south, east, and west, and China to the north. This geographic constraint significantly impacts Nepal’s economy and trade.

Challenges- Nepal heavily relies on India for access to seaports, particularly Kolkata, for most of its international trade. This dependence makes it vulnerable to disruptions at Indian borders and increases transportation costs.

According to Locke, Rousseau, and Thomas Hobbes, the Englishman who came before Locke, the state was a reflection of the people who had made it. Hobbes claimed that competition and self-seeking are aspects of the “natural condition” of man. The only way for man to protect himself from the vicious circle of destruction that results from his interactions with other people is to submit to the authority of the state.

According to Locke, human nature is not so hopeless, but the state is once again necessary to preserve something, in this instance, inherent rights. According to Locke, the state is the social compact that forbids people from violating one another’s “natural rights” to life, liberty, and property.

Compared to Hobbes or Locke, Rousseau maintained a significantly more optimistic view of human nature in his beliefs. Rousseau argued that the general will of the governed should be the source of the state’s authority, not the right of a king to rule. According to him, the people as a whole make up the law, and the nation itself is sovereign. Plato had an influence on Rousseau, who saw the state as the setting for human moral development. Despite being tainted by society, man nevertheless has inherent goodness, which allows him to take up the moral stance of seeking the well-being of others. Conflict arises when individual goals are pursued, hence a state may only be considered healthy (noncorrupting) when the common good.

The state was an artificial way of creating a unity of interest and a mechanism for preserving stability for 19th-century English utilitarians. The early communist theorists, such as Karl Marx, who believed that the state had evolved into an “apparatus of oppression” controlled by a ruling class whose goal was to preserve its economic dominance, had precedence thanks to the benign but mechanical viewpoint put forward by Jeremy Bentham and others. He and Friedrich Engels, his colleague, declared in The Communist Manifesto that the people must first replace the government with a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which would be followed by the “withering away of the state,” in order to achieve total freedom and fulfilment.

Legal statuses

Access right

Examining Article 125 of the Convention, which lays out clearly the right of landlocked nations to enter and depart from the sea as well as their freedom of transit, is crucial in this respect. This article’s contents are completely detailed below to provide readers with a thorough knowledge of the subject at hand and eliminate the need for additional explanation of the rights represented. Article 125: Freedom of travel and right of access to and from the sea.

States that are landlocked are entitled to access the sea in order to exercise their rights under this convention, which include the freedom of the high seas and the shared heritage of all people.

Through bilateral, subregional, or regional agreements, the landlocked States and the transit States in question should agree on the terms and procedures for exercising freedom of transit.

Transit States shall have the right to take all necessary steps to ensure that the rights and facilities granted to landlocked States under this Part do not in any way conflict with their legitimate interests. This right stems from their ability to exercise complete sovereignty over their territory. The aforementioned clause makes clear that landlocked states are entitled to freedom of transit and access to and from the sea in order to exercise the rights granted to them by the convention—discussed later.

The exclusive economic zone is expanded by Article 57 to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines. According to Article 58 (1), all States, whether landlocked or coastal, enjoy the freedoms mentioned in Article 87 of this Convention, including overflight, navigation, and the laying of submarine cables and pipelines. These freedoms also extend to other internationally permissible uses of the sea that are related to these freedoms, such as those connected to the operation of ships, aircraft, and submarine cables and pipelines, and that are compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.

  • Transit Right
  • Landlocked states have the right to access and use international waterways and ports for their trade and transport needs.
  • Transit rights are often negotiated through bilateral or multilateral agreements between landlocked and coastal states, or through international conventions.
    • Transit Corridors and Infrastructure
  • Establishment and maintenance of transit corridors, including roads, railways, and pipelines, are crucial for landlocked states to connect to international markets
  • International support and cooperation, including financial assistance and technical expertise, may be necessary for the development and upkeep of transit infrastructure.
  • Establishment and maintenance of transit corridors, including roads, railways, and pipelines, are crucial for landlocked states to connect to international markets.
  • International support and cooperation, including financial assistance and technical expertise, may be necessary for the development and upkeep of transit infrastructure.
    • International cooperation
  • Land locked state often engaged in diplomatic effort to foster cooperation with neighbouring countries and the international communities to address their unique challenges.
  • Regional integration initiative such as custom union and trade agreement, can facilitate trade and economic development for land locked state.

Legal frame work

  • The legal framework for landlocked states’ rights and obligations is established through customary international law, bilateral agreements, regional conventions, and multilateral treaties.
  • International organizations like the United Nations and its specialized agencies, as well as regional bodies such as the African Union and the European Union, may provide platforms for addressing the concerns of landlocked states.

Challenges Faced by Landlocked States:

  • Limited access to international trade: Without a coastline, landlocked states rely on neighbouring countries for access to ports and maritime transportation. This dependence can increase transportation costs, hinder trade competitiveness, and limit access to global markets.
  • Vulnerability to political instability: Landlocked states often depend on good relations with transit countries for smooth access to ports. Political instability in these transit countries can disrupt trade flows and cause economic hardship.
  • Security concerns: Lack of direct access to the sea limits their ability to develop their own navies for coastal defense and maritime security.

Public International Law and Landlocked States:

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982: This landmark treaty, ratified by most countries, establishes a comprehensive legal framework for the use of oceans and seas. Importantly, UNCLOS recognizes the right of landlocked states to access and participate in activities on the high seas (beyond national jurisdiction) and the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of coastal states.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), 27 January 1980: This convention establishes the general rules concerning the conclusion, application, and termination of treaties between states. It is relevant in the context of landlocked states as it provides a framework for negotiating and concluding treaties with neighbouring countries to ensure access to the sea (e.g., transit agreements).

The Declaration on the Rights of Landlocked States: Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1965, this declaration outlines specific rights and principles for landlocked states. It emphasizes their right to free access to the sea through the territory of transit countries, on terms agreed between the parties. Additionally, it encourages international cooperation to address the specific needs of landlocked states in areas like infrastructure development, trade facilitation, and transfer of technology.

International Organizations and Initiatives:

The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS): This UN office serves as the focal point for international support to these vulnerable groups of countries. It advocates for their specific needs and promotes international cooperation to address their development challenges.

Regional Economic Integration Organizations: These organizations can play a crucial role in facilitating trade and promoting infrastructure development beneficial to landlocked states.

Case studies

Union of India v manget dead by LRS. and other (SC)

It was further held by the Supreme Court that the evaluation of these factors of course depends on the facts of each case. There cannot be any hard and fast or rigid rule. Common sense is the best and most reliable guide. He further relied upon the Judgment of the Supreme Court reported in 2003 (8) Supreme 734 [V. Hanumantha Reddy (Dead) by Lrs. v. The Land Acquisition Officer and Mandal R. Officer]. In this case the Supreme Court relied upon the sale instances prior to four months of the draft notification. Some of the plots are adjacent and/or nearer to the national highway, some are not. In (Krishi Utpadan Mandi Samiti Sahaswan District Badaunn through its Secretary v. Bipin Kumar and Anr. etc.) it was held by the Supreme Court that for the purpose of the land acquisition act the market value must be determined on the basis of the sale-deeds of comparable lands. He has further relied upon a Division Bench Judgment of this High Court reported in 2006 (1) ALJ 26 (DB): 2005 (61) ALR 577 (Krishi Utpadan Mandi Samiti, Etawah v. Bishan Dass and Ors.), wherein it has been held that in case of fixation of market value of the acquired land if no suitable sale-deed of large area of land is available, reliance can be given on the sale-deeds of smaller piece of land. In [Union of India v. Mangat (Dead) by L. Rs. and Ors.] it was held that a land abutted on the national highway cannot be similar with the land which is land-locked and which is farther away from national highway. Factually, in all the cases where the land situates towards national highway, the amount of compensation is fixed at the rate of Rs. 12/-per square yard, whereas, in the rear side it has been fixed at the rate of Rs. 10/- per square yard.)

Earth builder Bombay v state of Maharashtra and others (Bombay High Court)

The Division Bench ruling in Earth Builders v. The State of Maharashtra (1997) 3 Bom CR 390 is a helpful resource in this regard. It noted, among other things, that under Rule 22(5) of the Development Control Regulations read with section 291 of the Act, the Municipal Commissioner has the discretionary power to grant access to the land-locked property and, if necessary, to declare such access as a public street in response to a challenge to the Corporation’s action of widening the road on the basis of diplomatic immunity. The Municipal Commissioner alone has the authority to decide whether to use this authority.

Landlocked States Advisory Opinion (1923): This advisory opinion issued by the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), the predecessor to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), addressed the question of whether a landlocked state (Czechoslovakia at the time) had the right to an outlet to the sea. While the PCIJ didn’t definitively establish a general right of access to the sea, it recognized the importance of ensuring reasonable access for landlocked states and the need for agreements with transit countries.

Right of Access of Land-Locked States to and from the Sea (1965): This case involved a dispute between Bolivia (landlocked) and Chile (coastal state) regarding access to the Pacific Ocean. Though not a formal court case, the International Law Commission (ILC) of the United Nations addressed the issue and drafted articles outlining the rights and obligations of landlocked states concerning access to the sea. These articles later formed the basis for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Understanding your basic rights a simple guide to Natural Rights


  • Under public international law, landlocked states are a unique class of countries distinguished by their absence of direct sea access.
  • In order to support their growth and incorporation into the global economy, it is imperative that they comprehend their legal position, rights, and problems.
  • Landlocked governments present unique issues, which Public International Law acknowledges and offers a framework for tackling.
  • PIL seeks to protect their rights to the sea, international trade, and sustainable development through treaties, declarations, and international collaboration.



Book References



I am a law graduate. I have done my BSc in Maths, after that I move to the law side and completed my LLB from the Shoolini University, Solan, Himachal Pradesh. Now I m doing law practice in the court. This is my first blog and I love to share my knowledge with the people. Keep visiting.

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