External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan of Armenia

At this critical juncture, both India and Armenia should translate their newfound bonhomie into a new-age partnership

In a major development on Thursday, the Indian government has appointed defence attaches to over half a dozen countries, including Armenia. Earlier, the hectic diplomatic parleys between India and Armenia in the last few years, especially since India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Yerevan in October 2021, the first of its kind by a high-profile Indian leader in the last three decades, show India’s keen interest in Armenia.

For the first time in the three decades, since the independence of Armenia in 1991 following the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union, a high-profile minister of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government visited Armenia. Similarly, the last four years have seen many diplomatic waters flown between New Delhi and Yerevan. For example, the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ararat Mirzoyan, took part in the Raisina Dialogue, 2023 organised by India’s External Affairs Ministry, and subsequently in February-March 2024, an Armenian delegation comprising academicians, think tanks and cultural ambassadors visited various institutes, think tanks and organisations in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, besides taking part in the Raisina Dialogue 2024. Many analysts, strategists, and diplomatic honchos, both in Yerevan and New Delhi, believe that the recent rise in India-Armenia relations is the need of the hour amidst the crucial geopolitical ballgame in the South Caucasus region.

Armenia fervently desires India to balance the fractured geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus that has witnessed regional power rivalry, conflict over territory, and war as well. While, Russia, which has been the main support system of Armenia in the post-Soviet space, is now embroiled in several issues, especially the Western sanctions, following its war with Ukraine and thus taking scant interest in the issues related to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Further, the dubious silence of Russian leadership during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2023 for whatever reason casts doubt on Armenia’s dependence on Russia in the coming times. It is, therefore, ironically felt that amidst the weakening of Russian support to Armenia, India is the only country that can play a sheet anchor role in the South Caucasus both because of her strategic and economic interests in the region. And perhaps Russia will have no inhibition for India playing its part in the South Caucasus.

Hence, India’s intervention in the South Caucasus is veritable as understood from this author’s recent interaction with several Armenian scholars, academics, strategists, media persons, common people, etc. in Yerevan in the last week of March 2024. They firmly believe that a person of Prime Minister Modi’s international stature can balance the situation in the South Caucuses. They also believe that since India has strong strategic bonds with three of the important powers (Russia, Israel, and Iran) who have stakes in the South Caucasus, it can persuade these three countries not to antagonize Armenia and provide direct or indirect support to Azerbaijan that has tormented Armenia left and right in the last few decades. Besides, Armenia wants India to use its good office to influence Azerbaijan leadership to end hostility along its border with Armenia.

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