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Armenia to join Chabahar Port; Will it kick off an Emerging Partnership of India, Armenia, and Iran?

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Armenia is currently engaged in discussions to join Iran’s Chabahar Port, seeking enhanced access to India and other Asian nations, according to Mnatsakan Safaryan, the country’s deputy foreign minister.

Armenia is eager for seamless connectivity between the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and Chabahar Port, anticipating the completion of this link within a year.

This move aligns with the trilateral grouping of India, Iran, and Armenia, with recent discussions in Yerevan focusing on economic projects and regional communication channels.

Armenia proposes the Persian Gulf-Black Sea corridor via Iran as part of INSTC or as a new branch, facilitating trade between Indian and European markets. The ‘Crossroads of Peace’ project aims to enhance regional communication, presenting significant benefits for India.

Despite regional challenges, Armenia’s strong economic growth positions it as a natural partner for India. Talks are underway to establish agreements regulating mobility issues and launch direct flights between the two nations.

Additionally, collaboration in the information technology sector is being explored, leveraging the expertise of both countries in this field.

Why India-Armenia-Iran partnership is vital?

One example of a small country that has been caught up by the changing geopolitical landscape is Armenia. Russia had been Armenia’s main focus for foreign, defense and security policy before 2020. Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and CSTO, hosting Russian army base and border guard units. The belief that an alliance with Russia would prevent Turkey from participating in any future war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was the primary logic behind this strategy.

But the changing geopolitical landscape in the region, which includes changes in Russia’s relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan’s increased role for Russia, have not yet been assessed by Armenia’s leadership. As a result, Armenia suffered a defeat during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war, which put the existence of Nagorno Karabakh in doubt.

It has given Azerbaijan the opportunity to further intrude on Armenia’s territory. Since the end of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Armenia has faced a permanent escalation and aggressions by Azerbaijan. This resulted in the occupation of 200 square km. of Armenian territory by Azerbaijan, the emergence of the concept of “Western Azerbaijan,” and growing pressure on the Nagorno Karabakh Armenians to accept Azerbaijani control or leave their homeland.

Peace and stability have not been achieved through these negotiations facilitated by Russia, the European Union or the United States. At the same time, Azerbaijan’s recent actions, including the establishment of a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, demonstrate once more that it is determined to take full advantage of its victory in the 2020 war.

As Armenia has been facing multiple challenges – to protect Nagorno Karabakh, to resist further Azerbaijani invasions into Armenia, to push out Azerbaijani soldiers from Armenia proper, and to survive the Russia – West confrontation, there is an acute need for reassessing Armenian foreign, defense, and security policy. Old schemes are no longer working, and Yerevan needs new partners and partnerships.

Armenia was behind Azerbaijan in participating in multilateral cooperation formats, as Azerbaijan successfully launched the Azerbaijan – Georgia –Turkey and Azerbaijan – Iran – Russia platforms. Yerevan made some efforts to establish the Armenia – Greece – Cyprus (having the first trilateral meeting at the level of foreign ministers in June 2019) and Armenia – Turkmenistan – Iran cooperation platforms. However, these steps did not bring the expected results for several reasons.

Last September, Armenia and India signed military agreements with the aim of arming the Armenian army with heavy weapons amid the Azerbaijani military incursions into Armenia’s international borders. The arms deal included significant export orders of Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRL), anti-tank missiles, rockets and ammunition worth US $250 million to Armenia.

The Pinaka multi-rocket launch system, which is an indigenous Indian heavy weapon, is capable of firing a salvo of 12 rockets in 44 seconds. According to a report, “A single battery can neutralize a one square km region.” In 2020, India also landed a US $43 million order to supply four Swathi weapon-locating radars to Armenia. These systems can “track incoming artillery projectiles and pinpoint the location of enemy gun positions for counter-action,” according to WION News.

In this context, Armenia has a new strategic opportunity with regard to relations with Iran and India and the establishment of a trilateral cooperation format. The strong Armenia is an important concern for both countries, and they are opposed to Turkish domination in the South Caucasus.

Iran played a role in preventing or stopping recent Azerbaijani incursions into Armenia. At the same time, large scale military exercises in Iran are taking place – Azerbaijan borders in 2021 and 2022 sent a message to Azerbaijan that Iran may not restrict itself only by verbal statements.

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