Armenia and Azerbaijan are part of Transcaucasia or South Caucasia which is an geographical region on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia consisting of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the vicinity of the Southern Caucasus Mountains.
HOW DID THIS CONFLICT PROGRESS OVER THE YEARS?
- 1920: Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was created within Azerbaijan by the then Soviet Union.
- 1988: Despite the legal location of the territory within the boundaries of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature adopted a resolution to join Armenia.
- 1991: The autonomous region officially announced that (after a referendum boycotted by Azerbaijan), it would not join either of the countries. A war broke out across the area between Armenia and Azerbaijan, leaving approximately tens of thousands of victims and hundreds of thousands of refugees.
- 1994: A cease-fire that has since remained in effect was negotiated by Russia.
- 2016: The area was especially tense in April 2016 because of violent combat, which was known as the Four Day War, between the two countries.
- Also, in the last decade, sporadic ceasefire breaches between Azerbaijani and Armenian soldiers have caused hundreds of deaths.
HISTORY OF THE CONFLICT:
- Territorial disputes and ethnic clashes in Central Asia between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been going on for around four decades now. The Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus has been affected by this.
- Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh region began. The conflict lasted until approximately 1994, with this strategic region claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh held a referendum at that time. Azerbaijan had boycotted this.
- Citizens preferred independence in the referendum over joining one of the two nations. The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between ethnic Armenians and ethnic Azerbaijanis has continued.
- Both Armenia and Azerbaijan, accusing each other of having instigated ethnic cleansing.
- When the 'Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast', an administrative entity, agreed to vote to join Armenia, the situation deteriorated. This was since there was a huge Armenian community.
- The abuse had escalated by 1992. There were thousands of people displaced, prompting international bodies to take note of this. So, Russia negotiated a truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan in May 1994.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN REASONS FOR THE CONFLICT?
Territorial: The territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has an ethnic Armenian population of 95% and is dominated by them, but it is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan .
Religious: Armenia has a Christian majority, while Azerbaijan has a Muslim majority.
Domestic Politics: The leaders of both nations have fuelled the problem for their vested political interests time and time again.
ABOUT RECENT CLASHES:
On 27 September 2020, both Azerbaijan and Armenia reported having inflicted losses on each other in the region, taking the region back to the fore again.
- Some sources suggest that the clashes may have been a result of Azerbaijan's attempt to retake those territories occupied by separatist Armenians.
- Martial law was proclaimed by both sides.
- An election that was seen as a provocation by the government of Azerbaijan was arranged by the government of Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this year.
- There were confrontations between the two in July 2020, leading to the loss of a dozen lives.
- Owing to the presence of foreign and regional heavyweights in the region, the current crisis is garnering worldwide attention.
- Turkey proclaimed unconditional support for Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.
- The explanation for this is that, apart from cultural relations (Turkey and Azerbaijan are both Turkish countries), Turkey has also had disputes over other issues with Armenia.
- The 1915 Armenian genocide is not acknowledge by Turkey and this has been a point of contention between the two countries.
- The Armenian genocide of 1915 refers to the Ottoman government's systematic mass murder and deportation between 1914 and 1923 of ethnic Armenians from Turkey and neighboring regions.
- This genocide is not recognized by the new establishment in Turkey, either denying the events that took place then or believing that they were justified at the time.
- Armenia has also alleged that Turkey has provided Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan and has also shot down a helicopter. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan deny these claims.
- Russia, the area's dominant force, maintains strong relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, supplying both countries with military and financial assistance.
- However, because Armenia hosts a Russian military base and is part of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, its relations with Armenia can be considered to be stronger.
- Another element of the region's importance is its position in the energy trade.
- The pipelines linking Azerbaijan to Turkey are important for the supply of oil and natural gas to the European Union and pass near Nagorno-Karabakh.
- With both sides claiming civilian casualties and international players calling for a truce, fighting continues in the area.
WHAT IS THE MINSK GROUP?
The Minsk Group was founded in 1992 by the Security and Cooperation Conference (CSCE) which is now known as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It was formed to provide for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
France, Russia and the USA are co-chairing it.
The group's permanent members:
- OSCE Troika on a rotating basis.
One of the group's complaints is that, while it is meant to be impartial, the US, Russia, and France, all countries with large Armenian diasporas, are co-chairing it. The group is said to be soft on Armenia for this reason. Despite the UN's calls for the removal of Armenian forces, the Minsk Community does not actively support the removal of Armenians from the region.
It is also said that the organization does nothing important to find a permanent solution to the conflict, aside from mere lip-service in the form of calls for a truce and the criticism of the clashes between the two sides.
WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THE DISPUTE ON INDIA?
Indian-Armenian bilateral co-operation has seen strong growth in recent years. Yerevan (Armenia) was visited in 2017 by the then Vice-President of India. In March 2020, Armenia purchased India's SWATHI military radar system.
Many Indian students are studying at Armenian medical universities, and Armenia has witnessed a rising influx of Indian labour migrants in recent years. As India provides a counterbalance to the rival strategic axis between Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Turkey, close ties with India are vitally necessary for Armenia.
India is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a multimodal network between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe for the movement of freight by ship, rail, and road.
Azerbaijan is a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) dialogue partner of which India is a member.
The then Indian External Affairs Minister visited Baku (Azerbaijan) in 2018 which was the first-ever bilateral visit by an Indian Minister to Azerbaijan.
India's ONGC-Videsh is an operator in the Baku-Tbilisi - Ceyhan pipeline and the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) oil fields. Azerbaijan, however, supports the stance of Pakistan on the question of Kashmir.
Angle for Pakistan:
India has backed Armenia, while Pakistan has supported Azerbaijan. Pakistan, after Turkey, was the second country to recognize Azerbaijan's independence. Pakistan is also the only nation that does not accept Armenia as an independent state and completely supports the stance of Azerbaijan.
Angle of China:
In the Caucasian region, China has become more and more involved, carrying out a range of programs and signing commercial, political and military agreements with Armenia. Armenia also agreed to participate in the project on the Chinese Belt and Road. China, however, is an ally of its Azerbaijani competitor, and Armenia is also aware of its support for Pakistan.