February 8, 2023 7:17 am

Category

A Conflict Too Long & Bloody, Armenia-Azerbaijan Dispute

The two Caucasus countries are in conflict for nearly hundred years now. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been a bone of contention between Azerbaijani Muslims and Armenian Christians.

1889
2min Read

In continuation of the decades-old conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the South Caucasian region, Azeri soldiers on the 13th Sept opened fire on six unarmed Armenian soldiers, killing them on the spot. That too after they had surrendered and had pleaded for life. 

In a video that appeared online on 2nd October 2022, Azerbaijan soldiers (believed to be from the special forces of Azerbaijan ) can be seen dragging six Armenian soldiers into a secluded place and subsequently opening fire on them. 

Armenian Human Rights Defender Kristine Grigoryan confirmed the authenticity of the viral video showing the execution of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijan soldiers. 

She also confirmed that the incident took place on the 13th of September 2022 and was shot during a large-scale attack by the Azerbaijani armed forces on the territory of the Republic of Armenia.

The Azerbaijan Forces attacked the sovereign territory of Armenia on 12th September 2022 leading to large-scale skirmishes resulting in the deaths of as many as 100 soldiers from both sides. The attack was an escalation of a decade-old rivalry between two south Caucasus nations.

Armenia- Azerbaijan conflict

The conflict between the two Caucasus countries is a century old. For years, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been a bone of contention between Azerbaijani Muslims and Armenian Christians. 

Initially, Russian Czars maintained their influence over this area which also served as a boundary between the Russian Empire and Persia. Czar Ivan IV  constructed the Tarki fortress on the Caspian Sea as early as 1559. In the subsequent centuries, Russian policy toward the region has been dominated by the goal of maintaining a position of influence in the region. The region later also served the Russian Empire in checking the advance of the mighty Ottoman Empire.

The region came under the rule of the Russian Empire in 1823. After the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when Monarchy was abolished and a socialist Russia was formed, Azerbaijan and Armenia got their independence. These newly independent countries began to fight for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Communist-controlled Russia incorporated these newly independent Caucasus countries into its Republic, the USSR. These states came to be known as the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (S.S.R.) and Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (S.S.R.)

As Armenians supported Soviet rule, the Nagorno-Karabakh region was given to them initially by the Soviets. Later on, in 1923, the late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin gave the region to Azerbaijan and further complicated the situation as the Nagorno-Karabakh population comprised more than 90% of Armenians.

The Azeris started to control the Karabakh area(which had 90% Armenians). The Armenians in the region were looked at with suspicion by the Azeris who they believed would plant the seeds of secessionism in the area. Hence, the Armenians were subjected to discrimination and targeted killings by the Azeris.

The biased attitude of Azerbaijan towards Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh forced them to pass legislation in 1988, stating to officially join the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (S.S.R.), despite its location being inside Azerbaijan. The Azeris used force to crush the separatists which eventually intensified clashes in the region.

After the Soviet Union started to disintegrate in the late 1980s, newly independent countries formed including the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

On 2 September 1991, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence and proclaimed itself to be the Republic of Artsakh.

War broke out between the newly independent countries over the control of the Karabakh region. Armenia forced Azerbaijan to vacate the Karabakh region and also occupied its surrounding territories. Later on, a Russian-brokered ceasefire ceased the hostilities temporarily but for time being as frequent skirmishes have become a part of the day in the disputed region.

The Russian-brokered ceasefire gave the territory of Karabakh to Azerbaijan, but peace was still distant as both parties could not agree to the peace treaty.

Turkey playing the role of spoiler in peace

Turkey’s hands are stained with the blood of Armenians. During the first world war, the losing Ottoman empire whammed its frustration on the Armenians and in one of the worst genocides of the period, slaughtered millions of Armenians from 1915-16.

Turkey strongly backs Azerbaijan in its struggle to re-occupy the Karabakh region. Turkey has been arming the Azeris and has also sent mercenaries from Syria into the region to further escalate the already volatile situation in the region.

Turkey has supplied large military hardware to Azerbaijan, including its Bayraktar TB 2 drones, which served as a game changer for the Azeris in their recent clash with Armenia in 2020.

Turkey has been accused of adding fuel to the ongoing hostility between the two South Caucasus countries and of provoking the Azeris for resorting to firepower against the Armenians. 

Turkey has multiple interests in the region and is sacrificing regional peace to secure it. Azerbaijan is a resource-rich country and is important for Turkey to fulfill its energy needs. Turkey’s economy is currently in shambles and the gas supply from Azerbaijan is necessary to fuel its economy. Buying gas from Azerbaijan has been beneficial for Turkey as the money spent on buying gas comes back in the form of selling arms and ammunition to Azerbaijan.

Turks share religious, cultural, and linguistic similarities with the Azeris. It also wanted to increase its influence in the region. Hence, its backing of Azerbaijan becomes quite natural.

Recent Developments

In September 2020, fighting broke out between both groups over the disputed area of Karabakh. Both sides resorted to heavy use of missiles, drones, and rocket artillery. Azerbaijan came out victorious after the Russian-backed truce ended hostilities in November 2020. Russia deployed around 2000 peacekeepers to maintain peace in the region.

The truce did not bring everlasting peace as frequent ceasefire violations were reported by both parties in the disputed region.

Recently, on 13th September 2022, Azerbaijan targeted several Armenian cities with artillery firing and pounded bombs, which flared up the situation in the region.

India’s response to the situation

India has always reiterated its stand that bilateral disputes should be solved by talks and diplomacy. Though India has historical ties with Armenia, the resource-rich Azerbaijan is vital for India to tap into the energy resource there, and the fact that Azerbaijan lies in the International North-South Transport Corridor(INSTC) connecting India and Russia.

For India, countering the trio axis of Turkey-Pakistan-Azerbaijan is necessary. Relations between India and Turkey have deteriorated in the recent past, especially after Ankara supported the freedom of Kashmir. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan had taken an anti-India stand on the scrapping of article 370 by India from the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir and have spoken in one tone with the rhetoric of Pakistan, India’s arch-enemy, on the issue.

India signed a Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation on 14 Dec. 1995 with Armenia and has vowed cooperation in the field of trade and commerce, culture, tourism, education, defense, science, technology, etc.

India has also ramped up defense supplies to Armenia. Recently, India signed a Rs 2000 crore deal to supply missiles, ammunition, and an indigenous Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket launcher to Armenia amid the recent clashes in the region.

Earlier in March 2020, India and Armenia signed a  $40 million deal for the sale of four Swathi weapon locating radar (WLR) stations. 

For India, the region is of geopolitical importance as India wants to reach central Asia as well as to prevent the Turkey-Azerbaijan-Pakistan nexus from reaching the borders of India. 

Conclusion

The 30-year-long dispute over Karabakh has caused numerous losses of life and has now drawn several powerful players into it. Turkey’s support to the Azeris has made the space for peace negligible. With Armenia enjoying the backing of Russia and the Turks backing the Azeris, the region is slowly drawn into a Russia-Turkey Proxy.

An everlasting peace seems to be doubtful as multiple ceasefires have been broken time and again.

Shubham Joshi
Shubham Joshi
All Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

Popular Posts

Video Posts