Hours after reports surfaced of Pinaka rocket launchers reaching Armenia , foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijan's president summoned Indian envoy to express 'serious concerns'

New Delhi: A cargo of what is reported to be India’s indigenous Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers has reached Armenia via Iran, leading to a protest by its arch-rival Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan-based news portal Caliber.az put out videos Tuesday evening of a camouflaged convoy moving through Iran’s Nurduz border checkpoint into Armenia.

It claimed that the convoy was likely carrying military cargo delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas from the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea.

Quoting “independent” sources, the portal identified the source of the cargo as India, which has increased its military-technical cooperation with Armenia in recent years.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in a conflict over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region that resulted in a 45-day war in September 2020. A peace deal brokered by Russia put an end to fighting till 2022 when frequent ceasefire violations escalated into another two-day conflict in September, followed by scattered instances of border clashes.

Hours after reports surfaced Tuesday suggesting weapons from India had entered Armenia, Hikmet Hajiyev — foreign policy adviser to the president of Azerbaijan — called on the Indian Ambassador to the country, Sridharan Madhusudhanan. Hajiyev noted that Azerbaijan was concerned about expanding military cooperation between Armenia and India and the circulation of photos and videos reportedly showing the transportation of Indian-made weapons systems to Armenia through Iran, Azer News reported.

According to the report, Hajiyev added that India’s supposed supply of lethal weapons to Armenia at a time when Azerbaijan was negotiating a peace agreement with it “paves the way for the militarisation of Armenia and escalation of the situation, and creates obstacles to the establishment of sustainable peace and security in the South Caucasus region”.

Hajiyev is also learnt to have said that such actions are incompatible with India’s self-proclaimed foreign policy based on the norms and principles of international law, as well as the historic “Bandung Principles” of the Non-Aligned Movement. He expressed “serious concerns of the Azerbaijani side to the attention of officials in Delhi and (asked them) to reconsider India’s decision regarding the supply of lethal weapons to Armenia”.

As reported by ThePrint, Armenia has turned to India to beef up its defences with the purchase of multiple military systems amid continuing tensions with Azerbaijan, which is seen as an ally of Pakistan and Turkey.

Late last year, Armenia had ordered a mounted 155mm 39-calibre artillery system manufactured by Bharat Forge, a private defence firm part of Pune-based conglomerate Kalyani Group. In September last year, Yerevan signed a government-to-government contract with New Delhi for the indigenous Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank missiles and ammunition.

Armenian Defence Minister Suren Papikyan even met his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on the sidelines of the DefExpo held last August, looking to expand defence cooperation with India.

ThePrint had reported then that Armenia was eyeing more defence deals with India including procurement of drones, counter-drone measures and loitering munitions, besides mid-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems like the Akash developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Observers have pointed out that, despite the physical distance between them, an “indirect linkage” has emerged between Armenia-Azerbaijan and India-Pakistan in recent years.

In 2017, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan issued a joint statement, establishing security cooperation and building further on previous bilateral military aid arrangements. Azerbaijan later deployed Turkish drones in the 45-day war with Armenia in 2020 and is believed to be in talks with Pakistan to buy the JF-17 fighter aircraft.