Taking into account the ancient ties with Armenia and its ongoing conflict with an aggressive Azerbaijan supported by Turkey and Pakistan, India would do well to meet all defence requirements of Armenia as requested by them.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Armenia has emerged in the global media because of the conflict over the Ngorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia that witnessed extensive use of drones. Turkey and Pakistan backed Azerbaijan with Azerbaijan using Turkish drones for attacking Armenia. The conflict is ethnic and territorial with the region of Nagorno-Karabakh inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians, and seven surrounding districts, inhabited mostly by Azerbaijanis.
In the Indian media, Armenia came into prominence in recent times with news that India and Armenia have signed a defence deal worth 2,000 crore ($ 250 million) in September 2022, under which India is to export the indigenously manufactured Pinaka rocket launchers, ammunition and anti-tank rockets to Armenia. The Pinaka Rocket System developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) can fire a salvo of 12 rockets in 44 seconds and is currently in service with the Indian Army.
Armenia came into prominence in recent times with news that India and Armenia have signed a defence deal worth 2,000 crore ($250 million) in September 2022
This is the very first time that India is exporting the Pinaka Rocket System to any country but it not the first time for Armenia to import defence equipment from India. In 2020, Armenia had procured four Swathi Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) developed by the DRDO at a cost of $43 million.
India recognised the independent Republic of Armenia on December 26, 1991 and concurrently accredited the Indian ambassador in Moscow also to Armenia. India and Armenia signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation on December 14, 1995 in New Delhi. The President of Armenia made official visits to India in 1995 and in 2003. In 2000 and 2010 Armenia’s Foreign Minister visited India and in 2011 the Secretary, National Security Council of Armenia visited India.
Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan visited the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in September 1964 and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited in June 1976. Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Armenia in October 2017 and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited Armenia in October 2021.
In October 2022, Armenia's Defence Minister Suren Papikyan leading a high-level delegation came to India on a working visit and met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the DefExpo 2022 at Gandhingar in Gujarat. Papikyan focused on the possibilities of expanding bilateral military and military-technical cooperation between the two countries. His visit took place amid the latest military escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan; at a time when Azerbaijan has taken control of Ngorno-Karabakh and is now targeting Armenian territory within its internationally established borders.
India-Armenia defence relations are sure to witness an upswing with the recent visit to India by Armenia's Defence Minister Suren Papikyan
In September 2022, the India Eurasia Trade Council (IETC) organised the India-Armenia Conference 2022 in Bengaluru, which was attended by Armenia’s Ambassador to India, Yuri Babakhanyan. The conference discussed prospects of bilateral economic cooperation and proposals to jointly implementing them. Indian exports to Armenia were $66.02 million (this figure was $19.8 million in 2017) according to the UN COMTRADE database on international trade.
India-Armenia civilisation relations are centuries old. Records as early as 430 BC – 355 BC mention Armenians travelling to India. Some were also part of Alexander’s expedition to India. At least seven Hindu cities were established in Armenia around 349 BC according to Zenob Glak; Armenian historian who became the first abbot of the Glak Monastery in Armenia. Zenob writes that the Hindu colony was established by two Indian princes from Ujjain who took refuge in Armenia, worshipped Ganesha, introduced hereditary system in Armenia and their descendants multiplied and ruled over a large part of Armenia. According to him, under the Hindu rulers, the cities flourished until the dawn of Christianity in Armenia in 301 AD.
Possibility of establishing joint defence manufacturing units in Armenia should be explored as an adjunct to India’s defence export targets
India-Armenia defence relations are sure to witness an upswing with the recent visit to India by Armenia's Defence Minister Suren Papikyan. Taking into account the ancient ties with Armenia and its ongoing conflict with an aggressive Azerbaijan supported by Turkey and Pakistan, India would do well to meet all defence requirements of Armenia as requested by them.
In addition, possibility of establishing joint defence manufacturing units in Armenia should be explored as an adjunct to India’s defence export targets; target for Indian defence exports by 2025 is 35,000 crores which would progressively be raised in the years beyond. Establishment of periodic defence dialogue would be a good step to review and monitor the military and military-technical relationship. It is also time for an Indian defence minister to make the first ever visit to Armenia for providing further impetus to defence cooperation between the two countries.