Armenian Defence Minister Suren Papikyan with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Gandhinagar (Image courtesy: Ministry of Defence)
Already on an upswing, the defence cooperation between India and Armenia is expected to get a major uplift after the visit of a high-level delegation from the South Caucasus country to Gujarat’s Gandhinagar for DefExpo 2022 this week.
As he met his counterpart Rajnath Singh, Armenian Defence Minister Suren Papikyan focused on the possibilities of expanding bilateral military and military-technical cooperation between the two countries.
Papikyan and accompanying interlocutors also spent quite a bit of time touring the exhibition booths at Asia’s largest defence event, familiarising themselves with the presented exhibits and having discussions with the managers of a number of companies.
The significant visit took place amid the latest military escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to the decades-long dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
India has maintained a consistent position with regard to the disturbances in the Caucasus region, calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict through diplomatic means right from the beginning of the hostilities.
“I presented the situation created as a result of the recent aggression of Azerbaijan and thanked for India’s clear position in international platforms. I also invited my colleague to visit Armenia on an official visit,” said Papikyan after the meeting with Rajnath Singh.
With Turkey and Pakistan backing Azerbaijan to the hilt, Yerevan has been keen on building a strong strategic partnership with New Delhi. It all began with India supplying Armenia with four Swathi Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at a cost of $40 million in 2020.
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Since then, from indigenously-developed Pinaka Extended Range multi-barrel rocket launchers and laser-guided Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) to the New Generation Akash (Akash-NG) missile, the government led by Nikol Pashinyan has been showing deep interest in acquiring the latest Indian military hardware.
As reported recently, the two countries have now signed a 250 million USD weapon deal to take their defence partnership to a new high.
The collaborative partnerships have been taking many other forms as both countries work on enhancing trade through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) by utilization of the Chabahar port in Iran which is being developed by India.
Landlocked Armenia is a key member of the project to establish the vast pan-Eurasian transport network and has shown keen interest in the utilization of Chabahar port which India is pushing to include in the INSTC framework.
The centuries-old India-Armenia connect makes the bond even stronger.
During the first-ever visit to Yerevan by an External Affairs Minister (EAM) of India last year, S Jaishankar also spotlighted that the relations between the two countries go back several centuries with the recorded history of the presence of the Armenian diaspora in India from medieval times.
There is a presence of rich Armenian heritage with churches, cemeteries and educational institutions in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Agra, where the first Armenian Church was consecrated in 1562.