Armenia keen on strategic partnership with India: Minister

Feb 25 2024

Armenia is keen to keep closer ties with India, and also to work on raising bilateral ties to the level of a strategic partnership.

“I think our relations are mature enough to be defined as a strategic partnership. I hope that our ministers of foreign affairs will have discussions on this issue," Armenia’s labour minister Narek Mkrtchyan said in an exclusive interview with Mint.

Mrkrtchyan also said that his country is keen to deepen defence ties with India. “We have cooperation in the defence and we are looking for what to make our cooperation much deeper," he said in response to a question about planned defence deals between the two countries.

This comes after India has stepped up arms sales and strategic support to Armenia amid its clashes with Azerbaijan. Located in the South Caucasus, Armenia clashed with neighbour Azerbaijan for control over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. A short but intense conflict in 2020 saw Azerbaijan inflict severe military setbacks on Armenia.

Since then, the country’s defence ties with India have strengthened. Armenia purchased the Swathi weapon-locating radar system from India in 2020. Following this, a bilateral agreement was reached for New Delhi to provide Armenia ammunition and multi-barrel rocket launchers for Pinaka, as well as anti-tank munitions.

In November 2022, Kalyani Strategic Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bharat Forge, won a $155 million contract to supply artillery guns to Armenia, according to numerous media reports citing defence ministry sources.

This has brought closer strategic cooperation between the two countries. Armenia’s national security chief met with NSA Ajit Doval in August 2023, which came after a meeting between defence ministers Suren Papikyan and Rajanth Singh in October 2022.

Armenia is also keen to see Indian firms bid for tenders to construct infrastructure in the country, particularly for marquee projects like the country’s North-South Road, which runs along the length of the country. It connects Armenia’s southern border with Iran to the country’s northern border with Georgia.

According to persons aware of the matter, the road needs upgrades to manage the flow of heavy trucks, which could provide an opportunity for Indian infrastructure firms.

“There are still unbuilt parts of the road like some tunnels and some bridges that need to be constructed. When an international tender will be announced, the government of Armenia will be happy to seek proposals from India as well," Mkrtchyan said about the project.

“We are announcing international tenders and we are happy to receive proposals from international companies for construction. For example, we are constructing 300 to 500 schools and kindergartens and this is also an opportunity for Indian companies to come and participate in tenders," Mkrtchyan said.

“We are now implementing a mega project of an academic city in Armenia, which means that universities will be located there. We will be announcing an international tender and we'll be happy to see Indian companies invest and do business in Armenia," he added.