Amid expanding defence cooperation, Armenia to soon have a Defence Attaché at its embassy here, it has been learnt

Stating that the increasing political cooperation between Armenia and India must be “institutionalised in a long-term cooperation” between the two countries, Armenian envoy in India Youri Babakhanian said, adding that some day they will turn this into a strategic partnership and that day is close.

“We have very long historical ties. I call this civilizational partnership... Some day we will turn this into a strategic partnership and I think that day is close. We share common interests and we have no contradictions. This must be institutionalised in a long-term cooperation between the two countries,” he said in response to a question from The Hindu while speaking at a seminar organised by India Central Asia Foundation on April 13.

He cited certain reasons for the increasing political cooperation between India and Armenia. “We have very long historical ties. I call this civilizational partnership. There is very good sentiment in political and people-to-people contacts,” Mr. Babakhanian said.

Speaking on the situation between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the aftermath of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, the envoy said that “installing defensive infrastructure across more than 500 km of new border lines with Azerbaijan is a top priority in order to deter any further incursions by Baku”.

Armenia recently signed a major defence deal with India for procurement of Pinaka multi-rocket launch systems and their ammunition, among others, in a deal worth around ₹2,500 crore. In the backdrop of the expanding defence cooperation, Armenia will soon have a Defence Attaché (DA) at its embassy here, it has been learnt. At present neither country has a dedicated DA in the other country. For India, its DA in Russia is also tasked to cover Armenia.

Speaking at the seminar on the situation in the South Caucasus, comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the envoy said that the U.S. and Europe certainly remain important actors in the region but their influence is declining. “Armenia felt abandoned by the West and Russia as the Trump administration’s half-hearted efforts to broker a ceasefire came late. The West now struggles to find a role for the Minsk Group,” he said while noting that Western support, financing and expertise are needed to support post-conflict stabilisation, reconciliation and governance projects.

He further stated that this does not mean that the Biden Administration will ignore the region, especially since it is a meeting place of some of the West’s biggest competitors — China, Iran and Russia — and most challenging partners — Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

He stated that Turkey with its military assistance to Azerbaijan positioned itself to become the most powerful regional player after Russia, making it Russia’s main geopolitical challenger for influence in the South Caucasus. In this regard, talking of the Iran factor, Mr. Babakhanian said, “Israeli arms shipments and access to advanced weaponry for Azerbaijan was also a game changer in the war.” Israel supplies more than 60% of the Azerbaijan military’s arms, he added.