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India and Nagorno-Karabakh

The Editorial covers GS paper 3 [Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.]

Editorial Notes] India and Nagorno-Karabakh | IASToppers


India has taken a principled position in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and supported moves for its peaceful resolution. The three decades-old unresolved ethno territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh flared up again recently. In terms of its scale and intensity, the current conflict has surpassed all previous clashes including the Four Days War. (2016 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict known as the Four-Day War).

What is the Background?

  • The genesis of the conflict is in the flawed creation of an Armenian Christian majority autonomous region, Nagorno-Karabakh, on the territory of a Muslim majority Azerbaijan.

  • In 1921, when the South Caucasus (region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea) was being incorporated into the evolving USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh’s repeated petitions to USSR for its merger with Armenia were turned down. 

  • The self-declaration of independence by Nagorno-Karabakh in 1991 in the backdrop of an imminent collapse of the USSR resulted in a war between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh — supported by Armenia.

  • This clash lasted till a ceasefire agreement was reached in 1994, mediated largely by Russia. 

  • Since then, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Minsk Group co-chaired by the USA, Russia and France have engaged Azerbaijan and Armenia extensively to resolve the conflict.

What are the issues?

  • While the conflict is between two relatively small countries and is territorial in nature, several regional and global players particularly Russia, USA, Europe, Turkey and Iran are also involved to secure their strategic, security and economic interests in the region.

  • Europe’s energy security hinges to a certain extent on the stability of the region. So far Russia, the USA and Europe have adopted a concerted approach in managing the conflict. 

  • Turkey’s aggressive entry with the explicit consent of Azerbaijan may upset the equilibrium.

  • The conflict is essentially a conflict between two international principles — the principle of territorial integrity advocated by Azerbaijan and the principle of the right to self-determination invoked by Nagorno-Karabakh and supported by Armenia.

  • The international interlocutors have so far failed to offer a compromise solution acceptable to both parties, who have adopted maximalist positions.

  • Azerbaijan may agree to grant some autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh, whereas the ethnic Armenians are insisting on full independence.

What is India’s stand?

  • India has adjusted its position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as the situation has evolved over the years. 

  • In the initial stages of the conflict in 1993, India had endorsed the concept of respect for territorial integrity.

  • India does not have a publicly articulated policy for the South Caucasus unlike Neighborhood First, Act East or Central Asia Connect.

  • The region has remained on the periphery of its foreign policy radar. 

  • There is visible asymmetry in India’s relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

  • India’s emphasis has been on a peaceful resolution of the conflict through diplomatic negotiations.

  • India has every reason not to support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity as Azerbaijan has shown scant regard for India’s territorial integrity violated by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

  • India has expressed its support for the OSCE Minsk Group’s continued efforts towards peaceful resolution, implying that India is not in favor of involvement of any other entity, including Turkey.

What are the concerns for India?

  • Armenia extends its unequivocal support to India on Kashmir issue whereas Azerbaijan not only supports but also promotes Pakistan’s narrative on this issue.

  • In the case of Azerbaijan, ONGC have made relatively small investments in an oilfield project in Azerbaijan and GAIL is exploring the possibilities of cooperation in LNG.

  • Azerbaijan falls on the International North South Transport Corridor route, connecting India with Russia through Central Asia; it can connect India with Turkey and beyond through Baku-Tbilisi-Kars passenger and freight rail link.

  • In view of Georgia’s foreign policy priority of integration with Euro-Atlantic structures and also in deference to Russia’s sensitivities, India has slow-peddled the development of its relations with Georgia with whom Russia’s relations are at a very low ebb.

  • Armenia is the only country in the region with which it has a friendship and cooperation Treaty (signed in 1995) which incidentally, would prohibit India from providing military or any other assistance to Azerbaijan in case Azerbaijan’s offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh spills over to the territory of Armenia.

  • The levels of India’s trade or investment with Armenia are very low.



India’s stand should have reflected its position on the alleged entry of mercenaries in the conflict. India’s stakes in the region can be assessed as more or less peripheral.  It is difficult for India to publicly endorse Nagorno-Karabakh’s right for self-determination in view of the possible repercussions. It can have repercussions for India as its adversaries may misuse it by making re-ignite secessionist movement in certain parts of India.


Source: Indian Express.