Caucasus and Zangezur corridor is back in game

| Updated: 07 October, 2023 6:46 pm IST
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (left) and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (right) in the image.

The recent events around Nagorno Karabakh need a closer look. My last article in The New Indian did try to provide a brief background and outline, of the recent Azeri-Armenian conflict over this hill region; it also mentioned that Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan – who is a result of an orchestrated colour revolution – is so hopelessly pro-West that chances are that he would sell Nagorno Karabakh out to please his handlers.

Unfortunately for the Armenians living in the NK region, the same happened within a week of the publishing of the article, when Pashinyan declared that in a few days he will consider that there are no Armenians in NK. And according to a new decree signed by the head of the Republic, Samvel Shahramanyan, all autonomous state structures of NK will be dissolved in some time, and effectively from 1st January 2024, NK will cease to exist. It would be absorbed within Azerbaijan.

There is a massive exodus in process already – something that the Western media is absolutely silent about. After all this is a NATO approved disaster, so it must be essential for democracy and ‘rules based international order’. Besides, as I mentioned already in the last article, the murder/rape/genocide of Eastern Orthodox Christians is something that the West has habitually overlooked since centuries, when not actively participating in them.

NK has slightly less than 1.5 Lakhs Armenians who now have to either leave, or settle down amidst what could potentially be a hostile population. Historic, ethnic, and religious – differences between these two people run old and deep, and it would be safe to assume that as members of a losing side in a recent war, the Armenians would not be given many choices. The multitude that has decided to leave behind their house, land, or properties and move out of NK, have proceeded towards the southern part of Armenia, a region called Syunik.

READ MORE: Explainer: Why are Azerbaijan & Armenia fighting?

Syunik is another region of interest, and according to a few analysts, this region is going to be the next focal point of a Turkey-Azerbaijan joint strategic move on Armenia. When it happens, this move, they think, like the recent one on NK, would also be backed by the West.

Syunik is a wedge between the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan and the rest of the Azeri mainland, travelling all the way to the Iran border. It is a mountainous region – the dominant range is called the Zangezur Mountain. Zangezur has been a disputed region since WWI. During the Soviet era, the USSR built rail corridors connecting the two parts of Azerbaijan through this region, this was called the Zangezur Corridor. The rail links got destroyed during the later years of war between Azerbaijan and Armenia; and now Baku wants to rebuild it.

This is a good idea. This kind of a project would not just improve the connectivity between the two Azeri territories but also serve to link Turkey, and thus Europe directly with the Caucasus. It helps Armenia, it helps Azerbaijan. It could even potentially help the CAR states. But while Baku has been both vocal and active about regularizing the corridor, it is Pashinyan-led Armenia that has chosen to remain silent on the same over the last couple of years.

The thing is, like the many initiatives Russia has taken in that region including mediating an armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan the last time they fought over NK, Moscow was supposed to manage the corridor; which meant guarding, controlling, and effectively overseeing the entire operation around it. That is something that does not sit well with the West; and so Pashinyan – who is incidentally the leader of a country which has historically identified itself more with Russia than the West (for religious reasons) – the by-product of a colour revolution, began getting invites to Ukraine, visits from Western agencies, bureaucrats, and even heavyweights like Samantha Powers who has recently mouthed platitudes about US respect for Armenia’s territorial integrity; quite a crude joke especially after Pashinyan handed over Armenian territory to Azerbaijan and cascaded the latest orchestrated humanitarian disaster that unfolds as we watch.

READ MORE: Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and the Caucasian Chessboard

Since Russia’s only link in the region now looks significantly weakened due to Pashinyan’s personal priorities, here are a few things that could happen in the near future:

1. Syunik – the wedge – might be pushed into a conflict with the aim of establishing an Azerbaijani geographic continuity and cutting off Armenia’s common borders with Iran. This could in fact be indirectly promoted by Armenian leadership;

2. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan could be clubbed and provided with an indirect association with West Europe (through EU, NATO, or any of the other institutions), in a bid to undermine Russian influence in the Caucasus, and to also facilitate an American access in the region;

3. Turkey, holding on to the West’s coattails, would look forward to expanding its dream of an empire-state by trying to improve access/influence in the CAR states. A geographic contiguity if Azerbaijan captures the Zangezur region would facilitate the building of connectivity infrastructure;

4. Iran and Russia – would try to find out ways and means to contain the situation. For Iran the point of worry would be if Turkey’s influence actually grows in Caucasus and among the CARs; for Russia, it is a historic reminder of the West moving one more step towards destabilizing Halford Mackinder’s “Heartland”, while Ukraine still remains unresolved.

5. And finally, Nikol Pashinyan and Volodymyr Zelensky would consolidate their image in front of the people of Global South as two great examples of how orchestrated chaos are just another method of propping up leaders who in all likelihood would destroy their motherland to serve their handlers hiding within the Western global financial maze.

(Arindam Mukherjee is a geopolitical analyst and the author of JourneyDog Tales, The Puppeteer, and A Matter of Greed.)

Disclaimer: Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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