NEW DELHI: An estimated 400 Armenians have fled the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia, fearing ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijani troops who seized control of the territory last week, more are expected to follow as the Azeris consolidate their control over a territory they have always claimed as their own.
The irony is Nagorno-Karabakh, claimed also by Armenia and populated by Armenian Christians, has had autonomy since the Soviet days … there is even a Russian peacekeeping contingent guarding the LACHIN CORRIDOR which cuts through AZERBAIJAN to Armenia to ensure civil and commercial traffic
But last year’s 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia saw the defeat of the latter and emboldened the former to bring Nagorno Karabakh back into its fold, so when Azeri troops began their campaign in Nagorno Karabakh, the Russians got out of the way since they did not want to spoil ties with Azerbaijan.
What happens now? Azerbaijan will ensure the enclave is completely absorbed and there’s nothing the world will do about it. Russia is too preoccupied with Ukraine to spare any time for Nagorno Karabakh. The US too sees the Ukraine war as a better bet to weaken Russia.
But the region is a critical transportation hub, with major pipelines and trade routes passing through it, including the North-South Transport Corridor connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, and Europe. However, with Iran under sanctions and now also Russia, trade along this route has been slow to take off. India too may prefer the emerging corridor through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel as the more practical route to trading with Europe. The Armenians will be left to fend for themselves.