Cargo of India's Pinaka Rocket Launchers Reaches Armenia via Iran, Causing Tensions with Azerbaijan
Recent reports reveal that India has sent an arms consignment to Armenia as part of a bilateral deal, with the shipment passing through Iran. Last year, India had signed a significant export order, supplying missiles, rockets, and ammunition to Armenia.
Caliber.az, an Azerbaijan-based news portal, released videos on Tuesday showing a camouflaged convoy crossing Iran's Nurduz border checkpoint into Armenia. The portal claimed that the convoy likely carried military cargo that was delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas from the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea.
According to the portal's "independent" sources, India was identified as the source of the military cargo. India has been increasing its military-technical cooperation with Armenia in recent years.
This development comes amid the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. A peace deal brokered by Russia had ended the 45-day war in September 2020, but ceasefire violations and occasional border clashes have persisted.
In response to the reports of Indian weapons entering Armenia, Hikmet Hajiyev, the foreign policy adviser to the president of Azerbaijan, called on the Indian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Sridharan Madhusudhanan. Hajiyev expressed concerns about the expanding military cooperation between Armenia and India and the circulation of photos and videos allegedly showing Indian-made weapons systems being transported to Armenia through Iran.
Hajiyev stated that India's supply of lethal weapons to Armenia while Azerbaijan was negotiating a peace agreement could escalate the situation and hinder the establishment of sustainable peace and security in the South Caucasus region. He urged Indian officials to reconsider the decision regarding the supply of lethal weapons to Armenia.
Armenia has sought to bolster its defense capabilities through multiple military system purchases from India amid ongoing tensions with Azerbaijan, which is perceived as an ally of Pakistan and Turkey. Notably, Armenia had ordered a mounted 155mm 39-calibre artillery system and signed a government-to-government contract with India for Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank missiles, and ammunition.
Armenian Defence Minister Suren Papikyan had met with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh to discuss expanding defense cooperation between the two countries.
Observers have pointed out that there appears to be an "indirect linkage" between the Armenia-Azerbaijan and India-Pakistan relationships in recent years. Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan issued a joint statement in 2017 to establish security cooperation, and Azerbaijan had deployed Turkish drones during the 45-day war with Armenia in 2020. Additionally, Azerbaijan is reportedly in talks with Pakistan to acquire JF-17 fighter aircraft.