Last night when an Azerbaijan helicopter flying over the Xankandi area was shot down by an Armenian Surface to Air Missile, the crisis took an ugly turn. Hostilities broke out at more than a dozen sites in the disputed Karabakh region in which both the countries suffered badly. While Azerbaijan lost three of its helicopters, 3 UAVs & more than half a dozen armoured vehicles, there had been damage to the civilian sites in Stepanakert as well as Xankandi due to missiles & rockets fired by Azarbaijan forces. The offensive is continued as I write this article. Also Read - Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: New Ceasefire Attempt Alarms Region, Both Countries Blame Each Other
Both countries have been engaged in a bloody battle since the Soviet Union disintegrated leaving the region in a disturbed state. Going deep into the crisis reveal that this fighting is rather more than two centuries old. While most of the people of this region practice Armenian Church, Islamic Rulers of Azerbaijan have been claiming control over it for over two centuries resulting in several large-scale massacres, plundering of cities & illegal occupation of territories. Also Read - COVID-19 Vaccine Latest News: Dr Reddy's Gets DCGI's Nod to Conduct Late-stage Clinical Trials of Sputnik V COVID-19 Vaccine
The biggest question is Also Read - Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree to 'Humanitarian Ceasefire', Says Russian Foreign Minister
“Where is this conflict heading?”
“Is this zone turning into another war zone like Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq?”
I see a very high possibility keeping in view of the current situation.
The role of two of the world powers in this crisis is at stake. While Azerbaijan is a close ally of Turkey who is a NATO Member & thus has indirect influence of United States over Azerbaijan, Armenia had traditionally been an ally of Russia.
The religious factor is also prominent in these relations as Armenia is the only Christian dominated country surrounded by three Islamic countries (Turkey, Iran & Azerbaijan) on its sides. It is actively supporting the Christian militia of Karabakh region despite of the fact that this territory is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
Both the countries are being supplied weapons & other war machines by their allies & thus became the most flourishing arms market in Europe.
US, Turkey, Russia, France, Iran & even Israel is supplying their military equipment’s to these countries specially Azerbaijan. All of them except Turkey & Russia have mere commercial interests. It is reliably learnt that at least two of the UAVs shot down by Armenian Air Defence on 27th Sep 2020 were Israeli Drones.
As we know both countries (Russia & Turkey) are at loggerheads in middle east at various places hence both would take this conflict as an opportunity to settle old scores. Russian President Vladimir Putin who himself had served in eastern Europe during his KGB days, understands the importance of this region & would do all out efforts to establish his supremacy.
In my opinion, this time the conflict is likely take an ugly turn. We may see a full-scale war soon. Following factors strengthen my theory: –
1. Ever since the July 2020 clashes, Russia is vehemently accused by Azerbaijan as well as Turkey for supplying war equipment’s to Armenia in large scale. Huge consignments are arriving in Armenia. There are reports that certain elements of Russian Special Forces are also operating in the zone disguised as Armenian militia. Such reports were not so common earlier. This indicates a direct interest of Russia.
2. Soon after the clash of yesterday, Armenia declared Martial Law in the country & initiated full scale military mobilisation. This shows the aggressive posturing of Armenia & reflects that the Christian Country is in no mood to calm down. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan issued a one-line appeal to its citizen “Get ready to defend our sacred homeland”.
3. On the other side, Azerbaijan has also mobilised its military & launched counter offensive in not only the disputed Karabakh region but also all along Armenian Border. Heavy War machinery is moving to the borders, Airforce fighters are carrying out counter air patrols & missile batteries are getting deployed.
4. Azerbaijan has dispatched its high-ranking defence officials to Ankara for a secret talk which invariably reflect a tri-patriate conflict between Turkey-Azerbaijan & Armenia.
5. While the Minsk group of Organisation for Security & Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is trying to contact both the countries, no headway is visible. No official communication of the OSCE is issued as I write this article.
6. Although Minsk group comprise of France, Russia & US, there has been no official communication from these countries suggesting a solution of the conflict. While US is heading to the presidential elections & hence will try to show neutrality, France is waiting for either of the top powers (US & Russia) to speak first. On the other hand, Russia is carefully watching the situation before taking any action.
7. Even in July 2020 incident when things were turning ugly, there had been no significant reaction from United States. Ironically, United States govt still not have an official policy on South Caucasus region despite of the fact that one tenure of the republican government is about to be over. Such things pave way for other powers like Russia & Turkey to fill the vacuum. In fact, US has burnt their fingers in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Middle East & Afghanistan so much that they are unlikely to give any priority to this matter.
8. The independent aid agencies working in the area reveal that they have not seen such large-scale mobilisation of the forces ever since 2016. This strengthens the theory that a war is inevitable.
9. If we recall the July 2020 incident where Armenia attacked the border positions of Azerbaijan in Tovuz district, it reflected an all-out offensive posturing from Armeina too. Which means Armenia is in no mood to settle down now.
10.Soon after this July incident, Russia carried out a full-scale Combat Readiness Exercise on its border with Azerbaijan. As of now, there is complete operational deployment of Russian troops at this border which is irking Azerbaijan as well as Turkey.
In a nutshell, the situations & the global posturing is clearly indicating that this region is turning into a hot war zone. Although in next couple of weeks things will absolutely be clear however the situation is very tricky. Azerbaijan does not want to lose control over the region & Armenia will not stop supporting the ethnic Christians living in that area.
However, in all wars, common people are the sufferers. It’s the residents of the war zones which suffer, it’s the families of martyred soldiers which suffer & it’s the forthcoming generations which suffer. An immediate intervention by UN Security Council to move UN peace keeping forces can be a solution but the million-dollar question is “Are the world powers really serious about resolving this issue??”
I would leave it to the readers to decide.
(Amit Bansal is is a Defence Strategist with keen interests in International Relations and Internal Security. He is also an author, blogger and poet.)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of India.com. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.