With the ongoing violence in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Turkey and Pakistan are among the countries that have been openly supporting Azerbaijan. While India has called to “maintain peace” in the region, but which side does India actually support?
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“India is concerned over this situation which threatens regional peace and security. We reiterate the need for the sides to cease hostilities immediately, keep restraint and take all possible steps to maintain peace at the border,” said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement.
It added that India believes that any lasting resolution of the conflict can only be achieved peacefully through diplomatic negotiations.“We support OSCE [the Organization for Security and Co-operation] Minsk Group’s continued efforts for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” added the press release.
New Delhi has an established relationship with Yerevan. In March, India secured a $40 million defense deal with Armenia for supplying four SWATHI weapon locating radars. Reportedly, Poland and Russia were also vying to sign a deal with Armenia but New Delhi received the final nod.
In 1991, India recognized the Republic of Armenia after it broke away from the Soviet Union and concurrently accredited India’s Ambassador in Moscow in 1992. According to the MEA, there have been three Presidential-level visits from Armenia (1995, 2003 and 2017) and three visits to India at the level of Foreign Minister (2000, 2006, and 2010).
“By backing Armenia’s stand, India will willy-nilly be endorsing the right to self-determination”, said India’s former envoy to Yerevan Achal Malhotra, in a conversation with Sputnik. “There is an accepted interest of territorial integrity involved in the conflict. India’s backing of Armenian secessionists’ demands could have diplomatic repercussions for us on Kashmir, he added.
According to the report in Sputnik, the former diplomat explained that Kashmir’s dispute is different as the state acceded to India under its former king Maharaja Hari Singh in 1948. “It is Pakistan which illegally controls that territory now. However, Pakistan and Turkey will go haywire and try to twist the perception among the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) bloc against India”, he stated.
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On the other hand, India and Azerbaijan have “friendly relations and growing bilateral cooperation,” according to the MEA. While, India’s Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, former President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (as Vice President in 1956), and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1961) visited the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, there has been no high-level exchange since its separation from the Soviet Union.
Previously, Azerbaijan had extended its support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue along with its ally, Turkey. Malhotra stressed that there was nothing stopping India from taking sides now.
The tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have peaked when violent clashes started on September 27 over Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides have blamed each other for starting the violence.
The OSCE Minsk Group has called for a ceasefire and has invited both the parties for peace talks. Yerevan is ready to start talks on a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh through the OSCE Minsk Group countries mediation, reported Tass.