Armenia Azerbaijan Tussle: An Opportunity In Disguise

Amidst the Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza, the Armenia-Azerbaijan war has gone unheeded the way it should’ve gotten due attention. The primary reason behind this could be the limited impact Armenia and Azerbaijan have on the larger geopolitical landscape. However, this may be true for the world, but for India, this war has brought some significant conclusions. This conflict not only highlighted some geopolitical realities but also brought in new opportunities for India. From tapping emerging defence opportunities to check-mating the brewing Pakistan-Turkey-Azerbaijan nexus, it seems India has ticked all the right boxes and bagged all the right lessons from this conflict. However, despite representing certain opportunities, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict also poses certain challenges that India needs to take into consideration. In this piece, we’ll delve into the reasons behind this war and the opportunities and implications it poses for India.


The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a long-standing territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh has a mixed ethnic and historical background. It was the Soviet Union that established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province in 1923. The province was home to a 95 per cent ethnically Armenian population situated within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1988, Nagorno-Karabakh’s regional legislature passed a resolution in favour of joining Armenia, despite its official location within Azerbaijan. This resulted in armed clashes between the two republics. However, the clashes were controlled under Soviet rule. As the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, ethnic tensions escalated, leading to open conflict. The situation deteriorated into a full-scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, resulting in around 30,000 casualties and displaced persons. By 1993, Armenia had gained control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In 1994, Russia brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan known as the Bishkek Protocol.


The ceasefire was largely honoured by both nations, with one instance of violent skirmishes in 2016. This resulted in hundreds of casualties on both ends. Subsequently, after four days of fighting, the two sides announced they had agreed to cease hostilities. However, in September 2020, a full-fledged war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh. It was estimated that the clashes resulted in more than 7,000 casualties, including both armed personnel and civilians. Finally, after six weeks of intense hostilities from both sides, Russia successfully brokered a deal on November 9, 2020. In the agreement, Azerbaijan came out victorious, reclaiming most of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh it had earlier lost to Armenia, leaving Armenia with only a portion of Karabakh. The agreement also established the Lachin Corridor, monitored by Russian peacekeepers, that would serve as a transit route connecting Armenia to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.



The primary reason Armenia lost and had to cede its territory to Azerbaijan was the lack of defence hardware. Armenia was too complacent, relying on a Russia-led defence treaty called the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization). However, all its dreams of Russia coming to aid were shattered as Russia didn’t walk its talk. Thus, an ill-prepared, comparatively small Armenia had to go up against a massive Azerbaijani army supplemented by foreign mercenaries and a Turkey-Pakistan nexus. This resulted in Armenia finally looking out for new defence partners, and that’s where India comes into play. India, which is on track to achieve its target of US$5 billion in exports and US$25 billion in revenue by 2025, grabbed this opportunity. In no time, India emerged as a major defence supplier for Armenia. The following are some highlights of Indo-Armenian defence engagements: 

  • In July 2023, India’s first-ever export of its domestically-made Pinaka rocket system reportedly arrived in Armenia. It was part of a $260 million deal between India and Armenia for several Pinaka launcher systems and associated ammunition. Since the Pinaka system is equipped with shoot-and-scoot capabilities, it would ward off an Azerbaijani drone attack on key Armenian installations and forward forces.
  • A $43 million contract was signed to supply SWATHI weapon-locating radar in September 2023.
  • In November 2022, Kalyani Strategic Systems signed a $155 million contract to supply artillery guns to Armenia.
  • In November 2023, Armenia signed a deal to buy $41 million worth of anti-drone military equipment from India.
  • Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) signed an estimated Rs 6,000- crore deal to manufacture and deliver the Akash anti-air system.


Since India brought a constitutional amendment to Article 370 revoking temporary special status for Kashmir in 2019, there has been growing collaboration between Turkey, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan. This Turkey-Pakistan-Azerbaijan nexus has been quite active in disseminating an anti-India narrative in Kashmir. In return, Pakistan and Turkey have been aiding and abetting Azerbaijan in its military aggression against Armenia. Both Turkey and Pakistan provided military equipment like drones and other logistics to Azerbaijan against Armenia. Additionally, the Turkish-Azerbaijan-Pakistan axis is based on an Islamic narrative of civilization, which is collectively expressed at the OIC against India. 

Mutual cooperation backed by a common ideology could lay the foundation for joint action in other theatres, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir against India. The signs for this were evident from the reports stating Turkey and Pakistan were in discussions on deploying SADAT, Erdogan’s private militia, in POK. This report rang alarm bells in New Delhi, and it became pertinent to send a message to Turkey. Many analysts believe India’s defence collaboration can also be seen as India’s checkmate with Turkey. By bolstering the Armenian defence, India has sent a subtle message to Turkey to refrain from any misadventures in POK. India demonstrated that it is very capable of changing the power dynamics in Turkey’s backyard if it tries to indulge itself with Pakistan against India.


INSTC stands for International North-South Transport Corridor. It is a multimodal network of transport routes connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. It envisages a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes for transporting cargo aimed at reducing the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30 per cent and bringing down the transit time from 40 days by more than half. This would provide an economical substitute for traditional routes through the Suez Canal. However, India is now more interested in Armenia and would like to see the INSTC cross through Armenian territory, given that Armenia is the only Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) member with a land border with Iran. This is due to the emerging Pakistan-Azerbaijan-Turkey axis.

Unwarranted comments and meddling in India’s sovereignty by Azerbaijan in collusion with Pakistan and Turkey have made India reconsider including Azerbaijan in such a flagship project. In the future, Azerbaijan could hold the entire project hostage at the behest of the Pakistan-Turkey alliance. Therefore, to guard its strategic interests, India had to ensure that Armenia held its ground and didn’t succumb to Azerbaijan’s aggression. For those running disinformation campaigns against India, accusing it of warmongering in the South Caucasus region, like Azernews, it should be clear that every nation reserves the right to protect its legitimate interests. India, like any other nation, is just exercising its right to guard its interests within the fold of international laws. If Azerbaijan could get weapons and hire foreign mercenaries from Turkey and Pakistan, it should also extend the same luxury to Armenia.

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As India expands, so does its region of interest. Therefore, India must protect its interests in the region. Indo-Armenian ties are currently in their nascent stages, but they’re evolving rapidly into a strategic partnership. Apart from defence engagements, Yerevan provides New Delhi with a potential outpost in the Eurasian corridor, which could connect it to Europe. Hence, deeper engagement with Armenia will benefit India economically by bolstering India’s trade logistics. But to realise its potential, Armenia must be secure in an extremely hostile neighbourhood. Here, India could utilise its military know-how to assist Armenia in securing itself against Azerbaijan’s superior military might. This not only stifles Turkey’s ambition for regional hegemony but also gives it a taste of its own medicine for meddling in India’s affairs. By scuttling the Pakistan-Turkey-Azerbaijan axis of mischief, India could hit two targets with the same arrow.


Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (4th year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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