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June 21, 2024

India-Armenia-Iran Trilateral: Scope for Future

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By: Abhyuday Saraswat, Research Analyst, GSDN

India-Armenia-Iran trilateral meeting on April 20, 2023

Armenia hosted the first ever Trilateral meeting of India Armenia and Iran Format on April 20, 2022 in Yerevan. Yerevan is getting quite close with two increasingly important partners for Armenia as it navigates the geopolitical landscape during a difficult period in its ties with Moscow. The foreign ministries of the three countries focused mostly on economic problems and regional communication lines, but with some defence considerations thrown in for good measure. JP Singh, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, led the Indian delegation. Armenia and Azerbaijan are in a constant struggle with each other and with Russia’s recent Special Military Operation in Ukraine it has not been able to get the same sense of security from its warrantor Russia as it enjoyed in the past. Iran in this struggle is aligning itself with Armenia and backing Yerevan. Whereas Russia is currently unable to operate as a weapons supplier, India is being sought as a prospective replacement. This comes at a time when Pakistan, Turkey, and Azerbaijan are stepping up trilateral collaboration.

Armenia-Azerbaijan struggle

The Second Karabakh War, which took place between September and November 2020, was a military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict resulted in the loss of many lives and displacement of thousands of civilians. The conflict was triggered by the Armenian military’s attack on Azerbaijani positions in the region on September 27, 2020. Azerbaijan responded with a counter-offensive, which led to intense fighting between the two sides. The conflict was marked by the use of heavy artillery, drones, and other advanced military technology.

The war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10, 2020, which resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control of much of the territory it had lost in the previous conflict in the 1990s. The ceasefire also provided for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the region to monitor the situation. But with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, Russia “The Warrantor” of peace in the region is not able to provide it.

The recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been a matter of concern for the international community. The two countries have a long-standing territorial dispute over this region, which has led to several clashes and military confrontations in the past.

The recent escalation of violence in the region has resulted in the loss of many lives and displacement of thousands of civilians. The situation is complex and multifaceted, with several factors contributing to the conflict. The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is not just a territorial dispute but also involves questions of identity, history and geopolitics.

Iran’s Backing

Iran has historically played a significant role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran shares borders with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and has a large population of ethnic Azerbaijanis living within its borders. Iran has also been a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past. Iran has been calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and has expressed concern over the recent escalation of violence. Iran has also offered to mediate between the two sides and has been in contact with both Armenia and Azerbaijan to try and find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

However, Iran’s position on the conflict is complicated by its own internal politics and regional dynamics. Iran has close ties with Armenia and has been a strategic partner for many years. At the same time, Iran is wary of Azerbaijan’s ties with Israel and the United States, which it sees as a threat to its own security.

Zangezur Corridor

The Zangezur Corridor is a proposed transportation link that would connect Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan with Turkey, passing through the southern Armenian region of Syunik (Zangezur). The corridor has the potential to significantly boost economic connectivity and regional integration in the South Caucasus. The Zangezur Corridor has the potential to serve as a key trade route connecting Europe and Asia. It could also help to unlock the economic potential of the South Caucasus, which has long been hampered by political tensions and conflict.

However, the corridor is a complex issue, given that it involves several countries with competing interests. The Armenian government has expressed concerns about the potential impact of the corridor on its national security, given that it would pass through a strategic region of Armenia and Iran is backing Armenia considering a threat to its national security as well. At the same time, Azerbaijan and Turkey see the corridor as a vital link for their economic and strategic interests.

India’s Defence Ties

India and Armenia have had a long-standing defense cooperation, with India providing military training and equipment to Armenian armed forces. In 2018, India and Armenia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defense cooperation, which included areas such as military training, joint exercises, and exchange of defense-related information. The MoU was aimed at further deepening the bilateral defense ties between the two countries. India has also been a key supplier of defense equipment to Armenia in the past. In 2017, India supplied four SWATHI weapon locating radars to Armenia, which were aimed at enhancing the country’s artillery firepower.

India and Armenia have maintained a strong defense partnership, and it is believed that this partnership will continue to grow in the future with the development of this Trilateral and can be a counter- balance to the Pakistan-Azerbaijan-Turkey Axis.

Boost to Make in India

With Armenia now seeking more defence equipment, this can boost the efforts of self- reliance and “Make in India”. Firstly, it demonstrates India’s growing role as a major defence supplier in the global market. India has been steadily increasing its defence exports in recent years, and this is a testament to its capabilities in this area.

Secondly, the deals will be a boost to India’s “Make in India” initiative, which will aim to promote domestic manufacturing and reduce dependence on imports. By manufacturing defence equipment for export, India can not only earn foreign exchange but also create jobs and boost the domestic economy.

Thirdly, it is a sign of the growing strategic partnership between India and Armenia. India and Armenia have traditionally had friendly relations, and this deal will further strengthen the ties between the two countries.

Scope for Future

There is great potential for cooperation and collaboration between these three countries. Each country has its unique strengths and capabilities that can be leveraged for mutual benefit. In terms of economic cooperation, there are several areas where the trilateral can work together, such as energy, infrastructure, and trade. Iran is a major oil and gas producer, while India and Armenia are major consumers. There is, therefore, scope for energy cooperation, including the development of the North-South Transport Corridor, which will connect India with Central Asia and Russia via Iran and Azerbaijan.

In addition, there is potential for cooperation in the fields of science, technology, and education. The trilateral can work towards the exchange of expertise and knowledge-sharing in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and renewable energy. Furthermore, the trilateral can also collaborate on regional security issues, particularly with regards to terrorism and extremism. The three countries can share intelligence and coordinate their efforts to counter these threats.

 Overall, the future of this trilateral depends on the willingness of the three countries to work together and overcome any challenges that may arise. With a shared commitment to peace, stability, and development, the India-Armenia-Iran trilateral can be a powerful force for progress in the region.

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