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Interaction with Secretary National Security Council of Armenia Mr. Artur Baghdasaryan

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  • March 03, 2011
    Round Table

    On March 3, 2011, the Secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council H.E. Mr. Artur Baghdasaryan addressed a select group of scholars at the Institute and participated in the roundtable discussion that followed. He was accompanied by Armenia’s Ambassador to India H.E. Mr. Ara Hakobyan and a high level delegation from Armenia. The meeting was chaired by Mr. N.S. Sisodia, Director General, IDSA.

    A range of issues was discussed – covering India-Armenia relationship, developments in the Arab world, Armenia’s foreign policy and relations with neighbours, European Union membership, the energy question and Armenia’s role in regional and global politics.

    Ms. Purushottam initiated the proceedings by highlighting the friendly relationship that India has had with Armenia, a country which has been a supporter of India’s core interests. The geographical location of the country, situated at the juncture of West and East, and sharing borders with Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran gave it an interesting vantage point from which to observe developments in the region, in East-West relations and even in the West Asian region.

    Mr. Baghdasaryan briefly highlighted Armenia’s views on some key issues of global concern. He described the Armenia-India relationship as ‘warm and close’ and said that his country had always been supportive of India at the UN and other international bodies. There had not been a single occasion in the last twenty years (post the breakup of Soviet Union and the subsequent independence of Armenia) that the two states had had a divergent view on issues of mutual concern. He lauded India’s balanced foreign policy and complimented India’s understanding of Armenia’s role in the region.

    He suggested that the two countries should try to build on from the strong foundations in the political relationship and diversify towards an all encompassing one with focus on business and security issues. He appreciated the initiative of the Indian foreign ministry to boost ties with Armenia. The visit of Armenian Foreign Minister to New Delhi was well appreciated and he hoped that the Armenian President’s forthcoming visit to India would catapult the relationship to greater heights.

    Mr. Baghdasaryan said that Armenia is a dynamically developed country with a clear vision of its future. It is a member of the CSTO. Its geographical location has ensured that it is part of the eastern partnership programme with EU. It also has a partnership of peace agreement with NATO. This is a clear indication of Armenia being able to balance its ties with the most important players in the region: Russia, USA and the EU.

    Armenia has initiated negotiations with the EU as part of its application for associate membership of the EU. The mandatory reforms in line with the EU charter will have to be carried out across a broad spectrum of sectors numbering close to three hundred. Amongst them, priority has been given to the political sector, free trade, legal issues, security and justice.

    A comprehensive plan has been drawn up to implement the policy and this is where the National Security Council comes into the picture. It is also the sole body responsible for the restructuring of armed forces, considered one of the best trained in the region.

    Armenia has always followed a balanced foreign policy and full membership of the European Union remains a long term goal. It has established energy contacts with Iran over the supply and exchange of gas and electricity. Mr. Baghdasaryan explained the rationale behind Armenia’s growing relationship with Iran. Armenia is a landlocked country and if the Georgian war had continued, Armenia would have faced severe food crisis because all its outlets except for Iran, Nagorno Karabakh, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, were closed. There was mutual understanding from all these key countries on the need for Armenia to rely on Iran. Armenia has large, medium and small hydro power plants, apart from atomic power plants wherein USA and Russia have made sizeable investments. Even Turkey has expressed keen interest in improving relations. All these developments have enabled Armenia to pursue a balanced foreign policy with the West and the Middle East.

    The Director General of IDSA put forth India’s stance on the changing situation in Afghanistan. He highlighted the massive reconstruction plan that India has implemented which included building not just the infrastructure but also strengthening the democratic institutions in the country. The fact remained that a majority of Pakistan people do not view the Taliban as a threat and the prevalence of Taliban sympathizers in the Pakistani army had further complicated matters. This had acted as a serious roadblock in the establishment of some resemblance of peace and stability in the land north of Hindukush. He also expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan as the recent political murders indicated that radicals were gaining an upper hand in the country. This was indeed very worrisome especially on account of Pakistan’s role in promoting terrorism in India.

    At the request of the Director General, Mr. Baghdasaryan went on to explain the unique composition and functions of the National Security Council of Armenia. The composition, mechanisms and functions explained by were noted down for sharing with the National Strategy Project of IDSA.

    Mr. Baghdasaryan called for Indian participation in some of the large infrastructure projects of Armenia since this would add a new dimension to the strong political ties between the two states. The International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Georgia-Iran-Armenia railway are the two big projects of Armenia. Armenia would like to tap into the Information Technology revolution of India and briefed the audience of India’s contribution in developing two IT centres in Armenia. He hoped that Indian companies would take note of the massive business opportunities, including building oil pipelines and highways, which are available in his country. There was a need to take the business relationship forward by establishing contacts with the business communities of the two countries.

    The highlight of the interaction was the general consensus amongst the eminent research scholars of IDSA and the Armenian delegation on the need for both countries to closely work together to solve problems of mutual concern. Mr. Baghdasaryan emphasized that the government of Armenia is focussed on research collaboration with research institutes worldwide. The Presidential administration and the defence ministry have made it a priority to initiate and motivate concrete research on key areas of national defence which include information security and strategic analysis. The entire state mechanism is closely linked to effectively coordinate and implement the strategic doctrine of the country.

    Armenia would like to establish a mechanism with India for exchange of information on regional and international issues. The opening of direct flights between Yerevan and New Delhi had made it easier for cooperation to flourish. Both Mr. Sisodia and Mr. Baghdasaryan agreed that such roundtable conferences were indeed very useful and practical in keeping each other abreast of policy making in their respective countries. Mr. Baghdasaryan invited the Director General to visit Armenia.

    Report prepared by Rajorshi Roy, Research Assistant, IDSA