The Azerbaijan-Armenia Geopolitical Clusterf*ck
The Azerbaijan and Armenia conflict is a complicated quagmire of different forces. The genocide of Christian Armenians by Islamic Azerbaijan is the real story. Rest is geopolitical maneuvering. It is also a story of India's diplomatic legendary work.
This statue is of David of Sassoun. He was the hero of the most important Armenian epic.
The days of clear geopolitical stances are over. Now, every event and situation brings a measured and compartmentalized response from the countries.
Allies in one area and conflict stand on the opposite side in another.
Those who support a country with weapons in one instance are ready to bomb the same country in another instance.
It is not a world of large sword action. This Diplomacy. It is the time of a scalpel.
A world where diplomatic surgeons carefully, skillfully, and sensitively work through the complicated and connected sinews within the global geopolitics.
The Road to the World
44 kilometers. That is an expanse of freedom. For Armenia.
A landlocked country has no way out for trade. The border with Iran is the way out.
In October 2022 in the small mining town of Kapan - capital of Syunik in southeastern Armenia, a delegation from the Islamic Republic of Iran had come to open a new consulate. Just a couple of miles away was the Azerbaijan border.
This small town is the gateway to a lot of geopolitical maneuvers.
Before we go further, let us remind ourselves of what is going on in this area. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been at war for very long.
So, Azerbaijan is a Shia Islamic country and Armenia is a Christian society.
Despite very different religious and ideological stances between Armenia and Iran, they have had good relations for many years.
In fact, just a few days before this event, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards were running massive "war games" on the border with Azerbaijan!
Days before the consulate opened, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced its troops were staging “massive” war games on Iran’s border with Azerbaijan. According to Iranian Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the drills were designed to send a message of “peace and friendship” to countries in the region, while demonstrating their ability to “respond decisively to any threat.” (Source: "Iran Is Filling Armenia’s Power Vacuum" / Foreign Policy)
So what is happening between Iran and Armenia?
There is a new trade route opening for Armenia via Iran. The route from Armenia to the Iranian port was built with India at Chabahar. India has already built two terminals at the port.
“We believe that the communication corridor from India to the Iranian port of Chabahar and on to Armenia and further north, the Black Sea, is a reliable route for transporting goods to the north and to Europe,” the Iranian envoy, Mehdi Sobhani, said during an international conference in Yerevan. “The development of this path will protect our countries against external harm.” India has built and operates two terminals at Chabahar to bypass Pakistan in cargo traffic with Iran, Afghanistan, and central Asian countries, Azatutyun reports. It has proposed the Gulf of Oman port’s inclusion in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project initiated by Russia, Iran, and India in 2000. The project calls for a 7,200-kilometer-long network of maritime and terrestrial routes stretching from Mumbai to Moscow. The Armenian government suggested in 2021 that Indian companies use Chabahar for cargo shipments to not only Armenia but also neighboring Georgia, Russia, and even Europe. (Source: Iran, India promote new trade route through Armenia / Mehr News, Iran)
This route may be built parallel to the INSTC.
The proposed corridor, which will run parallel to the International North-South Transportation Corridor, will aim to connect Mumbai with Bandar Abbas in Iran and then Armenia and onward to Europe or Russia, bypassing Azerbaijan with whom India has lukewarm ties amid its close association with Turkey and Pakistan, The Economic Times reported earlier. (Source: Yerevan Decides to Start Chabahar Port Operations / Financial Tribune (Iranian)
The entire drive is only 30 hours. Imagine bypassing the entire Azerbaijan deadlock to reach the Indian Ocean and trade with the world. Suddenly, Armenians are on the world map!
And, Armenians fully understand what India has done really means to them for their future.
The success of India's foreign policy under PM Narendra Modi can correctly boast of this accomplishment to help a country that has been at the receiving end of the Islamic genocidal forces for a long time!
But wait, this is not even part of the INSTC route. That route has Azerbaijan as a partner as well! The countries partnering there include India, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Ukraine, and Syria.
Remember, when Hamas attacked Israel, it had the potential to derail the INSTC.
Nonetheless, recent geopolitical developments pose potential challenges to this position. Initiatives like the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) propose more efficient trade routes, potentially undermining the traditional pathways. (Source: "Unveiling the Truth: The Hamas-Israel War and Global Power Dynamics" / Medium)
This was repeated by a lot of commentators. The premise seemed interesting but had no basis because the backbone of INSTC was Iran and the biggest backer for Hamas was also Iran. So, as it is believed, if they had planned out the October 7th attack, then they would have also planned the continuation of the INSTC work. Things, you see, aren't that straightforward.
So, this week, Iranian news agency Mehr News shares the latest figures of trade on that route. Bottomline: the transit of goods between Russia and Iran is up 30%!
The transport relations between Iran and Russia have been rising. This is evident in the transit records through Iran's territory according to the reports of the President of Russian Railways. As per this report, the records of transit increased by 30 percent and the time of freight transit has decreased from 49 to 20 days from Russia to Bandar Abbas. Additionally, it was decided that a joint committee would examine transit nodes along the route to further reduce the time. (Source: "Transit between Iran, Russia 30% up" / Mehr News)
And this success is also corroborated by another channel - RailFrieght.com. Per them, the corridor has already reached the 2023 target of 12 million tons by November.
Why is this such a significant win for Indian diplomacy? We will go through every angle of this massive geopolitical clusterf*ck to fully appreciate what is being done there by the combination of Dr. Jaishankar and PM Modi.
Azerbaijan-Armenia Wars: Unheard Brutality
In September last year, the Azerbaijani forces attacked Armenia. A week later, Armenia's Army Chief of Staff Edward Asryan met with Armenia’s foreign diplomatic corps and shared the details of the unbelievable atrocities.
One female soldier had been captured by the Azerbaijanis. They dismembered her, cut off her legs, and fingers, and stripped her naked. The cruelty of her murder was difficult to even recount! She was 36 years old Anush Apetyan, a mother of three children. The brutality of how they went about it is difficult to believe! (Source: "Azerbaijani Atrocities, Including Mutilation of Female Soldier, Detailed to Foreign Diplomats" / Asbarez)
But this is not the first such brutality was witnessed by the Armenians. They have been at the receiving end of the Turks for a long time now.
Between 1894 and 1897, the Turks killed tens of thousands of Ottoman Armenians were killed. These were known as the Hamidian massacres—after Sultan Abdülhamid II. It is estimated that casualties ranged from 100,000 to 300,000. They resulted in 50,000 orphaned children.
A few years later, the region saw Greco-Turkish War from 1919 to 1922. The Turks committed what is known as the Ottoman genocide of Christians. The Turkish forces committed mass rapes and civilian massacres as they overtook Greek villages or cities. Between 250,000 and 500,000 Assyrians and around 350,000 Greeks were massacred! The total death toll was over 2 million people.
The manner and depravity of the Turkish genocide of Assyrian Christians was no different than what Hitler did with the Jews using Concentration Camps.
In the Spring of 1915, started large-scale killings of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjecting them to forced labor as army conscripts. The women, children, the elderly, and the infirm were sent on death marches to the Syrian desert. 800,000 to 1.2 million Armenians! All done by the then-Minister of Interior Affairs - Talaat Pasha.
Ottoman forces leading Armenian Christians to an execution site (Source)
In 1920, the Soviets took over Azerbaijan and Armenia and created the borders between Turkey and the three Soviet states - Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan - under the Treaty of Kars. (Source: Karabakh)
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Continuing Armenian Genocide
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been battling since over Nagorno-Karabakh. It is predominantly a territorial conflict point from the Azerbaijani perspective. From the Armenian standpoint, it is an ethnic issue as well.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region is inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians, while the seven surrounding districts are inhabited mostly by Azerbaijanis.
In 1988, during the Glasnost period, despite the earlier discriminatory policies of the Azerbaijani-Soviet officials, the majority Armenian population in the region voted to go with Armenia. A series of massacres started by Azerbaijanis against the Armenians. This led to a full-scale war in the 1990s.
A full-scale war began in 1992 between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan over control of the mountainous, disputed territory. Some 30,000 people died and nearly a million people were displaced by the violence before a Russian-brokered cease-fire brought a modicum of calm in 1994. Around 700,000 ethnic Azeris were forced out of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, where a separatist government declared de facto independence, though the region is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the international community. The status of a vast majority of these refugees is still unresolved, more than two decades later. The conflict also saw 235,000 Armenian refugees flee other parts of Azerbaijan, including from Nakhichevan, an exclave of Azerbaijan tucked between Armenia and Turkey. (Source: "The crisis over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained" / Washington Post)
The war ended in a victory of sorts for the Armenians, though the United Nations passed four resolutions to ensure the "territorial integrity" of Azerbaijan.
When the dust cleared in 1994, Armenia (and its ethnic compatriots in Karabakh) was the victor, having gained control of not only the NKAO itself but also seven surrounding regions populated by ethnic Azeris, who had been driven out. De facto independent but de jure a province of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic had come into an uneasy existence. (Source: Caucasus war a result of US retreat from the worldthe / Asia Times)
In 2017, an Azerbaijani money-laundering scheme known as the "Azerbaijani laundromat" was exposed. This scheme involved a slush fund of USD 2.9 billion that was used to bribe European and American politicians, journalists, lawmakers, and academics. The purpose of these bribes was to influence these individuals to advocate for Azerbaijani interests abroad, particularly in promoting a pro-Azerbaijan agenda regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The summer of 2020 saw numerous cross-border incidents and instances of aggression, and intense and protracted hostilities erupted along the Azerbaijan-Nagorno-Karabakh border in late September 2020. The escalation of conflict resulted in a significant increase in military engagements, further exacerbating the already tense situation in the region.
The second Nagorno-Karabakh War was a destructive conflict that caused a substantial loss of life, with a death toll exceeding 6,000. During this war, the Azerbaijani forces successfully reclaimed territories that were previously lost in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It is important to note that the Azerbaijanis not only regained control over Armenian-administered territories outside the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region but also achieved military victories in several districts within the former autonomy itself, leading to ethnic cleansing. (Source: "Place-name wars in Karabakh: Russian Imperial maps and political legitimacy in the Caucasussaw" / Taylor and Francis)
After a prolonged food and supplies blockade in December 2022, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale war against the Armenians in September 2023. The result - Artsakh surrendered and will dissolve by January 1st, 2024.
Not only were the nations and media quiet. They facilitated the genocide.
With that background, let us now get into the relationship circus between the different players.
Israel, Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia: Strange bedfellows
Let us illustrate what is going on between the four of them (Israel, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Armenia).
Do you see how complicated things are?
The complications are best explained here in this extract.
- Iran provides support to Armenia
- Israel provides arms to Azerbaijan (long-range missiles and drones)
- Azerbaijan provides base to Israeli intelligence for operations against Azerbaijan
Despite the religious affiliations, the equations are complicated due to the many geopolitical realities that these countries face.
The utter hypocrisy and unbelievable mind-numbing political spin can best be understood from an extract of a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in April 2017 on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, the genocidal state mirroring Hitler's tactics and Hamas-style torture and debasing methods, is a "model of inter-faith and multicultural harmony"?!!
India and Arms to Armenia
It is now understood that India is sending arms to Armenia.
This has not gone on well with Azerbaijan and its masters in Turkey.
Azerbaijani President Aliyev has warned India and France about it.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday warned France and India against providing Armenia with weapons he deems a threat, saying such supplies could trigger a new war in the region. Azerbaijan “will have to react to protect its people” should Armenia start receiving “serious installations” from France and India, Aliyev told a conference in Baku, saying he’d already given advance warning to “everybody.” (Source: "Azerbaijan Warns of War Risks From Weapons Supply to Armenia" / Bloomberg)
Turkish President Erdogan has warned India and France as well.
So India is not just working on the way to provide a way out to Armenia via the route to Chabahar but also providing ammunition to fight Azerbaijan.
Iran and Turkey: "It's Complicated"
In all this, it is important to know the relations between Iran and Turkey. They have a strong rivalry on many of the critical issues and convergence on a few. The world of diplomacy is not run in broad strokes. It is carefully dissected via a sharp scalpel.
Turkey (or Türkiye) is 99.8% Sunni Muslim (0.2% are Christians and Jews). Iran is 99,4% (per 2011 census) Muslim (mostly Shia).
Because one regime is Sunni and the other Shia, the relationship dice is already cast. So these two Islamic countries battle each other in many areas.
- Rivalry in the conflicts in Syria, Libya, and the South Caucasus
- Turkey has been trying to gain control over Sinjar, a vital crossing point between Iraq and Syria
- Iran has taken a stand against Turkey's Afrin operation and military expansion into Idlib
You see, the hostilities between the two regimes are also substantially defined by the geopolitical positions they have taken.
“The tensions between Turkey and Iran did not appear out of the blue,” said Atilla Yesilada, a political analyst with Istanbul’s Global Source Partners. “This rivalry had been simmering beneath the surface for a very long time. Recent developments in Syria and Iraq simply forced the two countries to be more overtly aggressive against each other,” Yesilada told Al Jazeera. Over the past week, diplomatic tensions have escalated between regional rivals Turkey and Iran after Ankara blamed Tehran of pursuing a sectarian agenda and destabilising the Middle East. Turkey ‘s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Iran of trying to split Iraq and Syria by resorting to “Persian nationalism”, while Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, criticised what he called Iran’s “sectarian policy” aimed at undermining Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. (Source: "What is behind the hostility between Iran and Turkey?" / Al Jazeera)
But it is not all rivalry between Turkey and Iran. They also work together in some areas.
Two areas where they have converging interests are Kurdish separatism and the Qatar diplomatic crisis.
However, in the battle of Azerbaijan and Armenia; Iran and Turkey are on opposite sides.
Turkey, Greece, and Armenia: Sleeping with every enemy!
Meanwhile, Erdogan has been playing his own games. Just a year back - December 11, 2022, he had threatened Greece with serious violence. Hitting Athens with missiles.
But exactly after a year - on December 7th, 2023 - Erdogan went to the city he had threatened to bomb, Athens! To meet the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Apparently, the meeting was possible because of the legwork done by the diplomats in Athens and Ankara for several months.
Now, how does one square this with what Greece was doing with Armenia, with whom it has a very strong relationship? On July 5th, 2023, Greece had trilateral defense parleys with Armenia and Cyprus. This parley happened when Mitsotakis’s conservative government had just won the second term!
The bilateral ties between Armenia and Greece have a deep historical basis.
One wonders, therefore, what is the genocidal Turkish regime is planning as it flirts with Greece.
Because its Jihadi leanings are pretty clear from how it continues to back Pakistan's forces.
Turkey and Pakistan: Brothers of Jihad
The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is a Turkish government agency that gathers information on national interests. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is a Pakistani agency that gathers, processes and analyzes information that is relevant to Pakistan's national security
In an interview with the local TV station - Kahramanmaras - Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu admitted that there was a clandestine operation underway to train a "cyber army" for Pakistan to do influence operations. Soylu had helped Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by running troll and bot armies. The plan was made during Soylu's visit to Pakistan in 2018.
Soylu revealed in that interview that one of the Pakistani ministers - named Shehryar Khan Afridi (then-minister of state for interior) had talked to him after the main talks. He said the Pakistani minister pulled him into a private room after talks between the delegations and asked for his help with the establishment of a cyber system. Afridi told the Turkish minister that the United States was trying to create a negative perception of Pakistan using social media and that he needed professionals who could launch a cyber army to fight off such attempts by the US and others.
Soylu said he noticed that the Pakistani minister had deliberately shied away from raising this request during the bilateral talks in front of the Turkish and Pakistani delegations, instead preferring to convey it privately in a back-room meeting. Turkey responded positively to this request, Soylu revealed, sending five police chiefs from various departments in the Security General Directorate (Emniyet). The team worked for months in Pakistan to get the project off the ground and finally completed it. The cooperation has since continued under successive governments, with some 6,000 Pakistani police officers trained by Turkey for this and other projects. The secret work was camouflaged under the bilateral agreement on cooperation against cybercrime when in fact it was against perceived influence operations pursued by the US, India and other foreign powers, according to sources familiar with the project. (Source: "Turkey helped Pakistan set up a secret cyber army for influence operation against US, India" / Nordic Monitor)
The operation was to train Pakistan's cyber army against the US and India.
Turkey has secretly helped Pakistan in setting up a cyber-army camouflaged under the bilateral agreement which was used for domestic political goals as well as directed to attack the US and India and undermine criticism levelled against the Pakistani rulers. Turkey helped Pakistan in setting up a cyber-army to shape public opinion, influence the views of Muslims in Southeast Asia, attack the US and India and undermine criticism levelled against the Pakistani rulers.... (Source: "Pakistan set up cyber army against India with Turkey's help: Report" / Hindustan Times)
It was Turkey's unprovoked entry into India's backyard, that had provoked India's anger 4 years back.
Turkey has since escalated that backing. It has continued to support a corrupt and jihadi regime in Pakistan.
This really started to define India's stance on Turkey and the geopolitical decisions in Azerbaijan (Turkey's proxy) and Armenia.
Brilliance of Indian Diplomacy
Now, that we have seen the players and their complications within this area, we can get a better idea of why the Indian administration is brilliant in its diplomacy.
Here is a quick illustration of how India is working with the different forces within this geopolitical clusterf*ck.
To work with countries where the regimes are engaged in genocidal and existential wars to create collaborative structures is not for the faint-hearted. Nor can it be done by everyone specifically without overwhelming power threat that Europe has traditionally brought with economic sanctions and the US with military attacks and economic sanctions.
India brings none of those.
Just its political capital.
That is what diplomacy legends are made of.
From a time when to please Arabs India did not engage with Israel to this time when it is working with existential enemies equally is a cosmic leap.
For those who can understand it!
Video Corner: The Miracle of the Ram Janmasthan Mandir at Ayodhya
Sometimes it is not fully explicable. Something far bigger than we can comprehend is at work. When I was listening to this podcast by Abhijit Chavda with Dr. Meenakshi Jain, I was filled with awe in my mind and tears in my eyes, at how things worked out to undo one of the greatest symbols of the genocide of Hindus in India. The Ram Jamnabhoomi temple in Ayodhya!
Please watch and you will know what I mean.