Armenia turns to India for military hardware as tensions with Azerbaijan escalate

Indian Rustom drone

An Armenian defence delegation visited India to explore the possibility of buying Indian-manufactured combat drones and other weapons as tensions with Azerbaijan and its close ally Turkey continue to mount.

According to Indian media, the delegation "came armed with a shopping list" when it met with Indian officials last month. Citing an unnamed official, it said that drones "figured prominently on the list."

The online publication gave no other details of the talks. Nor did it say if any agreements were reached by the two sides.

Armenia's Defence Ministry on Friday declined to comment on the reported visit of its representatives to India or its broader interest in Indian military hardware.

Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, a senior official from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said India and Armenia are discussing "long-term" military cooperation as part of their efforts to deepen their ties.

The official, Sanjay Verma, spoke during a session of an Indian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on bilateral cooperation.

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, who co-chaired the session with Verma, listed "defense and military-technical cooperation" among the areas that are "very promising for our countries."

Mirzoyan held talks with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam16 Jaishankar in April on the sidelines of an international conference held in India. It was their third face-to-face meeting in eight months. Jaishankar visited Armenia last October.

"India sees Armenia not only as a friend but a good counterweight to Turkey whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been particularly belligerent on the Kashmir issue and followed a number of policies inimical to India," wrote DNA India.

It noted that India's arch-foe Pakistan is allied to Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Pakistan strongly supported Azerbaijan during the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

By contrast, India has backed Karabakh peace efforts spearheaded by the United States, Russia and France.

It has backed Armenia in an Armenian-Azerbaijani border dispute that broke out in May 2021. In a statement issued at the time, the Indian foreign ministry called on Baku to "pull back forces immediately and cease any further provocation."

Turkish-made drones deployed by Azerbaijan are credited with playing a key role in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the 2020 war in and around Karabakh.

Armenia and India signed a wide-ranging memorandum of understanding earlier this year that envisages deeper cooperation in a number of fields, including trade and technology.

The memorandum did not include defence, but Armenian and Indian officials had previously said they were exploring “a long-term relationship” in military cooperation.

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan has met with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, several times in the past year. Jaishankar made a historic visit to Armenia last October, becoming the first Indian foreign minister ever to visit the country.

Armenia signed a $40 million contract with India about six months before the 2020 Karabakh war for Indian-made weapon locating radar systems, becoming the first country in the world to purchase the technology.

The past few years have seen a considerable expansion in cooperation between Armenia and India. The two countries back each other in their respective conflicts with Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

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