By: Vishal Singh
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine set off a chain reaction, leading Armenia to re-evaluate its alliance with its longtime strategic partner, Russia. Initially dismissed as a rumour, it became clear over time that Armenia is now acquiring significant weaponry from India and the West, particularly France. Through this article, we’ll explore how India is emerging as or will become the primary supplier of weapons to Armenia, surprising Azerbaijan with the scale of these acquisitions. Having faced the harsh realities of past conflicts, Armenia understands the critical importance of robust defence capabilities, and the need for a strong defence has become paramount in this context. The acquisition of weapons is not just a strategic move but a vital necessity to ensure the security and sovereignty of the nation.
Russia’s Declining Influence in the South Caucasus
The recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict marked a turning point for Armenia and strained its historical alliance with Russia despite being formally allied within the CSTO. Armenia, disillusioned by Moscow’s inaction during the conflict, is reconsidering its security ties. The failure of Russia’s peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh has raised doubts about the sustainability of its military presence in Armenia. Armenia’s dissatisfaction is evident in its ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which means Armenia has accepted the jurisdiction of the international criminal court, and if Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Armenia, he will be arrested. Moscow’s response, labelling this move as extremely hostile, highlights the tensions in their once-aligned relationship.
The shifting dynamics led Armenia to explore alternative arms sources like India and the West, as Russia faces constraints in supplying weapons due to its commitments in the Ukraine conflict. France, which is home to an influential Armenian community, has become, in recent years, Armenia’s leading Western backer in the international arena. India also supports the country in the conflict with Azerbaijan.
The diplomatic relations between India and Armenia dates back to 1992 but gained momentum after Armenia’s short but intense conflict with Azerbaijan in 2020. In 2020, India sold the SWATHI weapon locating radar system to Armenia. However, the systems didn’t participate in the conflict because it was a new system for them, and they needed training to operate before being deployed in a conflict. Following this, a bilateral deal was established for New Delhi to supply an indigenous Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher. It may export Man Portable Anti-tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) to Armenia. In November 2022, Kalyani Strategic Systems won a US$ 155 million contract to supply artillery guns to Armenia.
The acquisition is facilitated through an Iranian Corridor, which is crucial for landlocked Armenia, providing a passage for importing military equipment. Armenia’s military commander, Major General Edward Asryan, visited India in March 2023 and emphasized closer ties. Armenians expressed gratitude for India’s condemnation of Azerbaijan’s aggression and welcomed an increased Indian role in the region.
One Arrow, Four Targets
Concerns arose for New Delhi due to the growing closeness between Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Turkey. Turkey and Azerbaijan supporting Pakistan on Kashmir raised apprehensions, potentially leading to enhanced cooperation on National Security.
Armenia’s interest now extends to various other Indian weapons, including the Akash surface-to-air missile system, and recently, in a groundbreaking feat, India’s Akash SAM systems successfully engaged four aerial targets simultaneously at a 25 km range using a single firing unit with command guidance. Being able to engage multiple targets with a single firing unit implies a high level of efficiency and integration in the AOS Sam system. This capability could contribute to a more effective and responsive air defence system, making it the first nation to achieve such capability.
Additionally, Armenia is eyeing the medium-range, surface-to-air missile MRSAM system from India, which has a range of up to 75 km. The MRSAM is a significant addition to Armenia’s defence capabilities. Also, Armenia is purchasing an anti-drone system from India, the Zen anti-drone system, a countermeasure against unmanned aircraft. It consists of an RF-based drone detector that uses radio frequency sensors that passively listen and monitor 70 MHz to 6 GHz frequencies for transmissions of the communication link between the Drone and the pilot. Reports also suggest Armenia might be the first to operate India’s armed UAVs. A Turkish Defence website reported Armenia’s interest in buying armed UAVs from India, specifically the Rustom 2 drones, representing a potential milestone in their defence collaboration.
Therefore, it’s a clear win-win situation for India. Weapon deals does not just suggest booming defence industry, it also sends a loud and a clear message to the adversaries. India is stepping into the spotlight, from cutting-edge drones to precision rockets and robust air defence systems. Previously occupied by Russia, as Armenia diversifies its Arsenal and navigates the twists of global geopolitics, we could be witnessing the dawn of a new era with India taking the Reigns in shaping the defence landscape. Will India become the new defence powerhouse for nations in need? Only time will tell. Stay tuned because the world of international relations is a theatre where alliances shift, and narratives evolve.