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India-Armenia Relations: An Appraisal

by Dr. Pravesh Kumar Gupta - 12 May, 2023, 12:00 216 Views 0 Comment

India and Armenia have a long history of mutual contact that dates back to ancient times. Both countries have a rich common cultural and historical heritage, which has contributed to their cordial bilateral relations in the present. Since Armenia’s independence in 1991, India and Armenia have maintained diplomatic relations. Sh. S. Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister’s visit to Yerevan in October 2021, boosted bilateral relations. It was the first visit by an Indian Foreign Minister since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.

Over the years, India and Armenia have worked to strengthen ties in a wide range of sectors, including culture, education, trade, and defence. Both countries have signed several agreements to foster and enhance partnerships in these sectors. In 2010, India and Armenia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cultural, educational, and scientific cooperation. The agreement sought to strengthen ties between the two nations and foster cooperation in language, literature, art, and music. India and Armenia have strong cultural ties. Armenian culture has been influenced by Indian culture, and vice versa. Both countries have been promoting cultural exchanges and interactions. In 2018, Armenia hosted a week-long Indian cultural festival that featured Indian music, dance, and cuisine. Similarly, Armenian cultural events in India have been held to promote Armenian music, dance, and art.

In addition to promoting their shared cultural heritage, India and Armenia have also been working to strengthen the ties in the education sector. A number of Indian universities and Armenian universities have recently signed agreements to advance academic partnerships and student exchange. Additionally, the two nations have been promoting language learning, with universities in India offering Armenian language courses and vice versa. Cultural and educational cooperation contributes to cultivating goodwill in both countries by encouraging people-to-people contact.

Due to the absence of a direct land route, economic cooperation between the two nations has long been constrained. However, with continued efforts on both sides, bilateral trade has significantly increased in recent years. The bilateral trade has increased from 33.91 million in 2017-18 to 162.32 million in 2021-22. India is one of Armenia’s largest export markets, and the two countries have been working to strengthen trade and investment ties. The India-Armenia Joint Business Council was established in 2019 to promote bilateral trade and investment. Still, there is potential for economic cooperation between the two nations, particularly in pharmaceuticals and information technology. India has a robust IT sector, while Armenia has a burgeoning tech sector that could benefit from India’s expertise. India’s pharmaceutical industry is regarded as the “Pharmacy of the World” and is one of the best in the world. Therefore, enhanced cooperation in the pharmaceutical industry could elevate the level of economic activity between the two nations.

Some notable initiatives have been commenced to address the lack of connectivity and low trade volume. A free trade agreement (FTA) is currently being negotiated between New Delhi and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Because Armenia is a member of the EAEU, signing this FTA would help boost bilateral trade. In addition, India and Armenia participate in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Due to the recurring geopolitical challenges in recent years, there have been renewed interests in reviving the INSTC. New Delhi and Yerevan can utilize this opportunity to promote INSTC as a mode of transportation between the two countries. However, it is crucial to maintain consistency in bilateral engagement at the highest level to promote bilateral cooperation in the areas mentioned above. It is impossible to disregard Iran’s significance as an important link between India and Armenia. A recent trilateral political dialogue between Iran, Armenia, and India took place in Yerevan. This would improve cooperation between these nations as well as assist in addressing challenges with connectivity and trade.

Cooperation in the defense sector is another important aspect of the India-Armenia relations. India has provided military assistance to Armenia in the past, including the supply of arms and ammunition. The two countries have also conducted joint military exercises to enhance cooperation and coordination between their armed forces. Given the unpredictability of the world order, strengthening defence cooperation has become essential for both Yerevan and New Delhi. India is working towards indigenising its defence sector under the Make in India programme. Therefore, there is a complementarity of interests to expand defence cooperation.

Both countries have recently signed a defence export agreement. According to this deal, New Delhi would send military weapons such as missiles, rockets, and ammunition to Armenia. Moreover, indigenous Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank rockets, and ammunition will be exported for the first time from India to Armenia. This agreement is estimated to be worth more than Rs. 2,000 crores. Formerly, in May 2020, Delhi and Yerevan agreed to swap four SWATHI weapon-detecting radars manufactured by the DRDO and capable of targeting enemy assets such as mortars, shells, and rockets from a distance of 50 kilometres for USD 40 million. Due to Armenia’s regional challenges, India and Armenia’s defence export agreement is crucial.

To summarise, the India-Armenia relationship is built on a solid foundation of shared cultural and historical links. Over the years, the two nations have attempted to develop cooperation in areas like trade, culture, education, and defence. As a result, their relations have witnessed a gradual expansion. India and Armenia’s relationship is projected to expand and flourish in the years ahead as both nations attempt to enhance their relationships and encourage multifaceted cooperation.

Dr. Pravesh Kumar Gupta
Author is Associate Fellow, VIF
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