Armenia and Azerbaijan sit in the south Caucasus, a crucial artery for gas and oil exports. The two countries have a long history of antagonism over the highly disputed Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) region. Armenia has a population of 30 lakh and people there are predominantly Christians. Azerbaijan is a Muslim majority country with a population of 1 crore. That means Armenia is just a 1/3rd of Azerbaijan in terms of number of people. In the west of Armenia is Turkey, a strong ally of Azerbaijan; in the south is Iran, which supports Armenia; and in the north is the mighty Russian federation, which, too, is a supporter of Armenia. Russia recently had a deal of Sukhoi 30 MKIs with Armenia, the same planes that Russia has sent to India.
Pakistan doesn’t recognize Armenia as a country just as it doesn’t recognize Israel. Pakistan professes open support to Azerbaijan because of its Muslim majority population and also for being an ally of Turkey.
Armenia and Azerbaijan both were part of the Transcaucasian Federation until 1918 and later were absorbed in the USSR. After the breakdown of the USSR in 1991, both countries became independent, though there was no proper settlement of their land boundaries. The crux of their modern feud is the highly disputed Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh region which is roughly 44,00 sq km in size. Here, 90% of the population speaks Armenian though it consists of both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks.
More than 30,000 people have been killed and a million displaced in this disputed region. Today Artsakh is under Armenian separatist control. The hate between Turkey and Armenia can be traced back to the Ottoman empire when Armenians were massacred by Turks in what is called as the Armenian Genocide (1914-23). Artsakh is to Armenia and Azerbaijan was Kashmir is to India and Pakistan. The dispute in both the regions of Artsakh and Kashmir could have been resolved by dialogue but nobody ever cared. Civilians continue to bear the brunt, be it in Kashmir or in Artsakh.
World powers rarely act unless the circumstances force them to. Such circumstances have arisen with the latest clashes in the region. We must keep our fingers crossed.
—The writer is an engineering student.