The roots of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict have to be traced to certain shortcomings in the National Delimitation process initiated by the Soviet Union to determine National Territorial Units way back in 1924-29. The Soviet Union is said to have carried out delimitation of Central Asia in an unreasonable hurry.
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Besides the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Southern Caucasus, there are other spots in Central Asia where delimitation has resulted in simmering disagreements, conflicts, claims, and counterclaims.
For example, handing over Samarkand to Uzbekistan has remained a bone of contention between the Uzbeks and the Tajiks because a majority of the population in the Samarkand region is of Tajik ethnicity and speaks the Tajik language.
Nagorno-Karabakh is essentially an ethnic and territorial dispute. Armenia, including the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, is a primarily Nestorian Christian-dominated region, while Azerbaijan is a Shia Muslim-dominated region. Religious divergence has also contributed to bitterness between the two peoples.
The two republics, usually called Trans-Caspian Central Asian Republics during the Soviet days, were included in the overall count of seven Central Asian Republics of the Soviet Union.
During the Soviet regime, ethnic, linguistic, and territorial aspirations of the federating units were suppressed with an iron fist. The simmering discontent of Azerbaijan thus remained suppressed.
But the first signs of growing conflict over the enclave surfaced in 1988 when the political activists of Nagorno-Karabakh massively demonstrated their antagonism towards Azerbaijan’s claims.
According to the international community, Nagorno-Karabakh has been declared a part of Azerbaijan. However, the majority of people in the enclave are Armenians who never succumbed to that definition and always maintained their individuality.
Even after its implosion in 1991, Russia tried to maintain a neutral stance vis-a-vis the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and emphasized the importance of peaceful resolution. Nevertheless, Russia has been the leading supplier of arms and ammunition to both sides.
The war of 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave can be called a watershed in the protracted dispute over several decades. It is this war that dragged external elements into it with far-reaching implications.
Turkey Steps In
Turkey, under President Erdogan, has been dreaming of the resurrection of the glory of the 18-19th century Ottoman Empire. Erdogan’s pandering to Islamism was natural if the grandiose dream was to be realized.
For this reason, Turkey began to look for coordination and alliance with Muslim segments of the Islamic world. Pakistan and Azerbaijan readily accepted an alliance with Turkey, of course, for different reasons.
Azerbaijan is engaged in deep rivalry and conflict with its neighbor Armenia and seeks support from a stronger state. Likewise, Pakistan is in conflict with India on Kashmir, which like Nagorno-Karabakh, is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan.
Apart from this, Turkey felt that given the status of Saudi Arabia as the religious leader of the Muslim world, her ambitions would not be fulfilled unless the influence of Saudi Arabia was curtailed.
Thus three Sunni Islamic countries, namely Turkey, Pakistan, and Malaysia, came together to form an alliance that demanded the ouster of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Twin Holy Shrines of Islam, meaning haramayn.
They managed to rope in Iran as well. Any international organization aiming to exclude Saudi Arabia is welcome in Iran.
The Saudis got wind of this conspiracy. They would not allow it to happen that easily. Crown Prince Salman sent an urgent message to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, warning him sternly to distance himself from the conspiracy, failing which strict action would be taken.
Saudi Arabia demanded the immediate return of a one billion dollar loan given to Pakistan. The frightened and distracted Imran Khan announced his inability to participate in the upcoming Kuala Lumpur meeting and returned a one billion dollar loan to the Saudi Prince with an apology.
The embittered and disappointed President Erdogan found a compulsion to come close to Islamic extremists. Pakistan was ready to accept him as a close ally because several times on international forums, including the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, he vehemently spoke against India’s stand on Kashmir.
Ever since, has been speaking the language of Pakistani generals regarding Kashmir, making it a point of convergence of opinion in the Islamic world.
At the OIC meetings, Erdogan is outspoken against India, especially on the Kashmir issue. This is how Pakistan found a new ally to present and fight its Kashmir case at many world forums.
The war of 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia sucked Turkey and Pakistan into its vortex. To show solidarity with Turkey in the fight against Azerbaijan, Pakistan offered weapons and materials to Azerbaijan against Armenia.
Pakistan had no reason to jump into the fray, but the Islamic zeal dragged her into the dispute. The ‘Three Brothers’ (Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan) joined hands to destroy Armenia, whom they considered an outsider in the contemplated Islamic Caliphate extending from the Dardanelles to the Strait of Malacca.
The ‘unwanted state’ concept of Armenia is as clear to the Islamists as Kashmir. That is why Erdogan has repeatedly been raking up the Kashmir issue, which binds the Three Brothers in solidarity.
Turkey has manufactured advanced and effective drones after considerable research by her technocrats. It is called Bayraktar. Turkey supplied these drones to Azerbaijan in the war of 2020, and the deadly drones wrought havoc on Armenian armor and tanks.
Armenia had been fighting with Russian weapons but did not possess such war material as would counter the Bayraktar onslaught. Anyhow fighting was stopped through the intervention of Russia.
A few days ago, skirmishes along the border between the two antagonistic states took place, leading to the killing of many soldiers on both sides. Though each side has been accusing the other of initiating violation of the ceasefire and disturbing peace along the border yet, the observers believe that Azerbaijan feels the time is ripe to undertake some military action to regain some areas she covets around the Nagorno-Karabakh.
In all probability, Azerbaijan is under the impression that Russia is involved in the Ukraine war and is not available to exercise its influence to stop the border fight; Azerbaijan thought the time was conducive for an incursion.
The European powers look at the conflict from a different angle. Azerbaijan has considerable deposits of gas. Handling Azerbaijan with kid gloves could ensure the transportation of Azeri gas to Europe. If that happens, Europe will no longer depend on the gas supply from Russia.
India has been watching this scenario taking place in the Trans-Caspian region. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar had a detailed meeting with his Armenian counterpart in the US.
It appears that Armenia has been able to put forth its case lucidly. Pakistan and Turkey’s active participation in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute raise doubts about their vicious adventurism in the Indian part of Kashmir.
We know that Turkey has desperately been trying to get a foothold in Kashmir Muslim society for the last year or two. Her intelligence outfit has been scanning the security structure in Kashmir.
Not only that, Turkey has allowed the admission of Kashmir Muslim youth to various professional and non-professional institutes in Ankara and other Turkish cities. Once the Kashmiri students land in Turkey, they are handed over to the ISI sleuths, who take them to the mosques or seminaries for a course in indoctrination and brainwashing.
They ultimately become the resource persons for the Turkish secret service. The daughter of the late Ali Shah Geelani has been permitted to run a website in Ankara meant to broadcast anti-India stuff day and night.
A Bollywood film actor was seen sitting comfortably on the balcony of President Erdogan’s residence, sipping tea in the company of Erdogan’s wife.
India cannot take things lying low. She has to look for means to scuttle the conspiracies being hatched in the Caucasus, which will directly impact her domestic affairs.
India Supporting Armenia
India has signed an agreement with Armenia to supply weapons as a first measure. The deal is reported to be in the neighborhood of 2000 crore rupees ($250M).
The Economic Times reports that India has signed a significant export order for missiles, rockets, and ammunition to Armenia. While the value of the contracts has not been revealed, it is estimated that weapons worth over 2,000 crore rupees will be supplied over the coming months.”
The Economic Times reports that the first-ever export of the indigenous Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers is on the itinerary. India will also supply anti-tank rockets and a range of ammunition to Armenia. In 2020, India supplied four Swathi radars to Armenia, which can track incoming artillery shells, mortars, and rockets and pinpoint the enemy’s launching position.
India’s concerns are understandable. Her reaction, though of limited nature, is justifiable. However, the reaction has to be commensurate with the magnitude of the action against Armenia.
India will have to widen the scope of support to Armenia. India should train Armenian fighters with the latest war tactics as she had done in the case of the Afghan National Army.
Many Armenian army officers should be admitted to military academies for higher training. India should also supply such an air defense mechanism to Armenia to counter the Turkish drone attacks. India must also support the Armenian cause at different international forums.
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