India Has An Opportunity In Armenia It Must Not Let Go Of


Feb 27 2024


  • This opportunity allows India's defense industry to tap into a new market and sends a clear message to detractors about facing consequences for actions against India's interests.
  • Armenia is buying a substantial amount of weapons and equipment from India after it suffered a humiliating defeat by Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict fought in 2020.

    Armenia and Azerbaijan have clashed over Nagorno-Karabakh, or 'Artsakh' in Armenian, for decades, with conflicts tracing back to the early twentieth century.

    Established by the Soviets in 1923 within Azerbaijani borders but predominantly Armenian, the region sought to join Armenia in 1988.

    Following the Soviet Union's collapse, intense fighting ensued, resulting in over 30,000 deaths and Armenian control over the entire region.

    Since then, both nations have engaged in numerous conflicts, the latest in 2020, when Azerbaijan overpowered Armenian forces in Artsakh. Azerbaijan's adoption of modern warfare tactics, including the strategic use of drones and loitering munitions, led to the significant loss of Armenia's older and conventional Russian-made military equipment.

    This loss led Armenia to diversify its arms sources, turning to India for millions of dollars' worth of weaponry over the past four years.

    In 2020, India delivered four Swathi Weapons Locating Radars (WLR) to Armenia for counter-battery operations. Additionally, in September 2022, India supplied Pinaka 214 mm multiple-barrel rocket launchers, their ammunition, and anti-tank missiles, followed by 155mm artillery guns in November 2022.

    Furthermore, Armenia acquired anti-drone systems worth $41 million from India's Zen Technologies, along with Akash surface-to-air missile systems.

    These weapons imports will bridge a critical gap in the Armenian inventory.

    The Russians, preoccupied with sourcing their war supplies from North Korea and Iran for the conflict in Ukraine, cannot meet Armenian demands.

    Additionally, the apathy of Russian peacekeepers during the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin corridor — Artsakh's sole land route from Armenia — has fostered perceptions of Russian bias towards Azerbaijan among Armenians.

    Russia's preoccupation with the war in Ukraine has created a void which India can fill.

    Apart from the weapons exports to Armenia to help it fight Azerbaijan, India could send trainers to the county to help them effectively utilise these weapons.

    Additionally, Indian military advisors could be sent to Armenia to assist Armenian commanders in making informed decisions, as well as, help in planning.

    India's decision to provide Armenia access to weapons in the middle of the war had irked Azerbaijan, with its President Ilham Aliyev and military warning India to stop providing weapons to Yerevan, adding that this could lead to another war.

    Azerbaijan is also emboldened by both material and strategic support it is getting from Pakistan and Turkey. Both Turkey and Pakistan have provided cover fire to Baku's actions in Artsakh, strongly supporting Azerbaijani control over Artsakh.

    Azerbaijan, like Turkey, has always supported Pakistan when it comes to Islamabad's revisionist agenda against India in Jammu and Kashmir.

    India should use help from Greece — whose Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was in India last week where he discussed ways to strengthen ties with India, and which also has an adversarial relationship with Turkey — to counter the trio of Azerbaijan-Turkey-Pakistan that have repeatedly shown inclinations against Indian interests.

    Notably, Greece and Turkey have historical tensions, with multiple conflagrations and dog-fights erupting between Greek and Turkish jets across decades.

    This support to Armenia will not only help in lifting India's stature but will also demonstrate its will to safeguard its interests far away from its border.

    Not only does this opportunity present a chance for India's emerging defence industrial complex to find a new market, but it also gives New Delhi a chance to demonstrate to its detractors that they cannot escape repercussions for actions that harm its interests. With such significant stakes, letting go of this opportunity is simply not an option.