Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on May 17, 2024 Updated 0 Hours ago

The growing trends in Armenia-India defence cooperation and new arms deals suggest that Armenia should establish a more strategic and comprehensive partnership with India

Fast-tracking Armenia-India military cooperation

For the last three years, the intensity of the cooperation between India and Armenia has increased at an active pace, strengthened by the establishment of a growing defence and security partnership. Given its expanding contribution to Armenia’s efforts to promote its defence capacities and its potential to support Armenia’s strategic and military growth, India has become a valuable emerging partner for Armenia in foreign policy and military cooperation. 

2020-2024 has been quite an important period, especially for Armenia-India military cooperation, as several events, meetings, purchases of military capital, mutual cooperation in various military defensive directions marked this new phase. 

A historical and political review

Armenia and India share a long history of amicable ties. The Armenian language journal, Azdarar, published in Madras (Chennai) in 1794, was the first-ever Armenian journal published anywhere in the world. A special Armenian postage stamp was issued in 1994 to mark the 200th anniversary of Azdarar. In 1773, Shahamir Shahamirian, a leading Armenian nationalist in Madras published his vision of a future Armenian nation, which is acknowledged by Armenians as the first attempt to draft the Constitution of an independent Armenia.

The long historical and cultural ties between Armenia and India has contributed to the close bilateral relations.

Diplomatic relations have existed between Armenia and India since 1991, when Armenia became an independent state. The long historical and cultural ties between Armenia and India has contributed to the close bilateral relations. This partnership has now expanded into other spheres including defence, trade, and culture.

A number of agreements have been signed between the two countries to expand and promote cooperation in different fields. In 2010, Armenia and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on collaboration in culture, education, and science. Both countries have actively promoted cultural exchanges and interactions as a means of strengthening their bilateral relations. In a remarkable event that took place in 2018, Armenia hosted a week-long Indian cultural festival, which showcased the vibrant and diverse aspects of Indian music, dance, and cuisine. Likewise, Armenian cultural events have been organised in India, suggesting an appreciation for Armenian music, dance, and art among the Indian population. These cultural exchanges have played a vital role in promoting mutual understanding and deepening the cultural relations between India and Armenia.

Emerging defence ties

Against this backdrop, the visit by the Indian External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar, to Yerevan in October 2021 was an important event for the countries’ bilateral relations since it was the first-ever trip undertaken by an Indian foreign minister to Armenia since 1992 when diplomatic relations were established.

This meeting became a starting point and it opened a new era for the Armenia-India military-political relations because the Ministers expressed readiness to implement programmes and new initiatives aimed at promoting cooperation in areas of mutual interest, particularly in high technology, defence, healthcare, transportation, the pharmaceutical industry, people-to people exchanges, air communication, culture, and tourism. In this regard, however, since 2022, Armenia-India relations have been marked by a new phase and a new grade of military cooperation. In 2022, as part of his working visit to India, the Defence Minister of Armenia, Suren Papikyan, met with Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh

The Indian Air Force is now set to increase its presence abroad for strategic interests and will post its officers as Additional Defence Attachés in Armenia․

A number of issues of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation were discussed between the two countries. The Indian Air Force is now set to increase its presence abroad for strategic interests and will post its officers as Additional Defence Attachés in Armenia․ The decision to appoint a defence attaché to its embassy in India is reportedly driven by the recent interest demonstrated by state institutions, private organisations, and companies in the military-industrial complex. The Armenian military attaché in New Delhi will coordinate existing India-Armenia defence programmes and propose new initiatives. The decision comes after several defence contracts that Yerevan signed with Indian arms manufacturers in the previous year.

In general, we divide Armenia-India military cooperation into the following directions in this new period of deepening Armenia-India military cooperation and relations, which has several different components:

  • The new Armenia-India military cooperation means mutual participation in military parades, military exercises, military movements, exhibitions of weapons, and military equipment.
  • The joint work of the defence departments of the two countries will be more active, there will be new quality partnership relations in the military sphere, and opportunities for military-technical cooperation will be expanded.
  • Importantly, India has expressed an explicit desire to partner with Yerevan in the South Caucasus given their aligned strategic interests in the region. By cooperating with India in bilateral and multilateral arrangements, such as Armenia-India-Iran and Armenia-India-France-Greece formats, Armenia gains a strategic partner in a region that otherwise faces Turkish hegemony.
  • Moreover, defence cooperation with India should also include partnerships on peacekeeping, joint exercises, military training by the Indian army, and advice on technical and logistical reforms by Indian military officials. As a country friendly with both Armenia’s traditional and newer security partners, it holds the powerful potential for improving Armenia’s defence capacities without provoking any of its partners.

India should maximise this opportunity to further promote its national development and come up with activities that will benefit both countries.

For Armenia, a closer partnership with India helps it diversify military potential and partnerships, and for India, it enables it to diversify its foreign policy. India should maximise this opportunity to further promote its national development and come up with activities that will benefit both countries. Although the trends in Armenia-India defence cooperation and new arms deals are promising, Armenia should establish a more strategic and comprehensive partnership with India, starting with a holistic defence collaboration. Armenia–India cooperation is also a great opportunity to increase Armenia’s strategic potential.

With the transformation of the global security architecture, the world is logging in an era of turbulence that may last for decades. In this context, the development of Armenia–India relations and their elevation into the level of strategic partnership will prove mutually beneficial.


Siranush Melikyan (PhD) is an Assistant Professor at the Yerevan State University.

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