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Modes of acquiring territory

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Under International Law, the following are the modes / ways of acquiring state territories.


  • Occupation is the intentionally acquiring sovereignty over such territory not under the sovereignty of another State.
  • Discovery of new land gives a good title over it. Example: Australia, America, Canada etc.
  • New land occupied should be open, public and the State authority over it should be for a long continuous period
  • Forceful occupation does not give rightful title to the occupier. Example: Iraq occupying Kuwait.

Related Cases

  • Island of Palmas Arbitration (22 AJIL (1928) 379)
  • Eastern Greeland Case (PCIJ 1923 Series A/B No 53
  • Andaman Islands Issue: Mere proximity to the land does not give another country to claim title over it


  • Long, continuous, uninterrupted use and enjoyment since time immemorial gives a good title over such land
  • The prescription should be public, peaceful and uninterrupted
  • Validity of title grows over time

Related Cases

  • Chamizal Arbitration (US vs Mexico)(1911)


  • Accretion is the formation of new lands (islands) because of natural acts such as volcanoes, floods etc

Related Cases

  • Chamizal Arbitration (US vs Mexico)(1911)


  • Cession is the surrender of a territory by one country to another.
  • Cession can be voluntary or by a forceful act (such as a war)


  • India ceased Berubari and gave it to Pakistan

Annexation / Conquest

  • Annexation is the process of adding an additional area by a State with or without force


  • China annexed Tibet
  • Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait
  • Sikkim, an independent country, voted to join and get annexed with India


  • A State can lease a part of its territory to another on some certain terms


  • China leased Hong Kong to Great Britain for a period of 99 years
  • Some islands of Cyprus are leased to Great Britain


  • A State can pledge a land to another for a loan which should be repaid it with interest on certain date.


  • Republic of Geneo pledged the Island of Corsica to France


  • Plebiscite is a decree of the people to join a territory with another State


  • Maharaja of Kashmir made a treaty to add Kashmir to India but Pakistan claimed Plebiscite


  • Purchase is the process of paying money or another territory by one country with another


  • Soviet Russia sold Alaksa to USA

Newly Born States

  • Some times territories get separated and they themselves declare independence.


  • Soviet Russia split into many individual countries
  • Bangladesh declared its independence


  • Colonies, as seen in those of Great Britain, declare independence by way of an agreement

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