OPED By Maj. Gen. (Dr) Ashok Kumar (Retd)
The world has been a place of unfair responses since time immemorial, and the current trend continues to date, albeit with more intense manifestations. When Russia commenced its special operations in Ukraine in the last week of February 2022, most countries supported Ukraine.
Even those countries in the world who supported Russia for reasons have also voiced concerns about the civil population of Ukraine, highlighting their displacement from their native location and the sufferings encountered in the process.
The nations and international organizations also rallied against Russia in support of Ukraine, so much so that the Human Rights Council of the United Nations voted to suspend Russia’s membership, with 93 countries supporting the suspension, only 24 voting against the suspension, while 58 countries abstained.
This was the action against a superpower like Russia, otherwise a permanent UN Security Council member.
No Reaction To Armenians Suffering
Most nations and international organizations’ response to support the Ukrainian indigenous population is not a one-off event. Still, the same manifests in the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel.
While countries have taken their positions in favor of Israel or Hamas based on their national policies and interests, two things have emerged clearly. One is that Hamas terrorism unleashed on Israel has been condemned by most nations. Still, Gaza residents suffering significant casualties and forced evacuation have also drawn support from countries opposing Hamas.
The sufferings and migrations of the ethnic population from Gaza drew positive support from several quarters and have become an important discussion point on the geopolitical scan of the world. None of the above responses came up when close to 100,000 ethnic population of Nagorno-Karabakh was forced to migrate to Armenia due to offensive actions by Azerbaijan in September 2023.
Regional and other world countries did not respond at the level of their anticipated response on such a significant event in Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnic cleansing by all standards.
India’s Understanding Of Armenian Crisis
India can understand the pain of the ethnic population of Armenian people much better as it suffered significant pain related to the migration of large scale people at the time of partition between India and Pakistan when large scale population moved between both the nations.
It was not only a mere re-location of the people but also resulted in large-scale killings and suffering. India has, therefore, been supportive of Armenia and its native population, whether they are located in mainland Armenia or the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
There are historical, geographic, and ethnic reasons for this conflict, apart from the fight for rich mineral deposits.
The ethnic composition of Armenia is predominantly Christian, including those staying in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Contrary to this, the natives of Azerbaijan are primarily Muslims, including those staying in the Nakhchivan enclave of Azerbaijan.
While the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave is quite close to Armenia, it was not physically connected till Armenia won the first Nagorno-Karabakh war spanning from 1988 to 1994, during which Armenia won decisively, including capture of the mountain pass and creating the Lachin corridor for physical geographic connectivity between Armenia and its Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Azerbaijan’s Troubles In Nakhchivan Enclave
Azerbaijan also has a similar geographic connectivity issue with its Nakhchivan enclave, which is physically located in the West of Armenia, with Iran in the south and southwest with a small boundary with Turkey.
Azerbaijan has failed to get the desired corridor through Armenia. Currently, Azerbaijan is trying to connect through Iran and Turkey, the outcome of which, along with implications, will be known later.
The geographic and ethnic complexity has to be resolved through politico-diplomatic discussions, keeping the interest of the ethnic population in mind.
India, Bangladesh Example Can Work
Land border settlement between India and Bangladesh resulted in enclave exchanges between the two neighbors. Still, the people residing in these enclaves could either stay in India or Bangladesh.
The corridor of Teen Bigha was also given to Bangladesh on a long-term lease to address the concerns of its population.
If a political settlement or resolution of the issue is reached as a consequence of direct negotiation between both countries, it will be an ideal solution; however, given the distrust and continued background of the conflicts between both nations, support of regional and other countries of the world may need to be taken.
At the same time, it is a must for Armenia to build up its military strength. Armenia, having less than half the size of Azerbaijani defense forces, got the decisive win in the first Nagorno-Karabakh war spanning over six years from 1988 to 1994.
But it suffered reverses from 2008 in the military conflict, losing substantial geographic control to Azerbaijan in the second Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020. Finally, almost the entire enclave was lost in September 2023, resulting in a mass exodus of the ethnic Armenian population from Nagorno-Karabakh.
India Can Bolster Armenian Defense
A strong defense force is essential for Armenia should Azerbaijan thrust the war again to get the geographic connectivity with its Nakhchivan enclave, as the following fault lines may develop into a significant conflict.
At this juncture, India can help a lot for the Armenian resurgence. However, it faces Chinese transgressions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and collusive threats from China and Pakistan.
Despite this, India can strengthen the defense forces of Armenia to a large extent. Besides providing the warlike stores, which it is already doing, it can establish a ‘Training Team’ for empowering the Armenian defense forces.
It will, however, depend on the national interest of Armenia to go in for such an arrangement, given its domestic political compulsions and world views on the matter. The co-operation can be further expanded based on the mutual national interests of both countries.
- Major General (Dr) Ashok Kumar, VSM, (Retd), is a 1999 Kargil war veteran, visiting fellow of the New Delhi-based Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), and defense & strategic analyst with a special focus on China. He tweets @ChanakyaOracle. VIEWS PERSONAL OF THE AUTHOR
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