Dr Manan Dwivdei
Dr Charu Ratna

Dr. Manan Dwivedi and Dr. Charu Ratna Dubey explain how involvement of external players may escalate violence in the region as the two countries are fighting war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a hilly region inhabited by Turkish Muslims and Christian Armenians, is geographically located in the southern Caucasus had been a bone of contention between Armenia and Azerbaijan since cold war. Both countries fought a war for this piece of land of about 4,400 sq km in 1988-94 which claimed around 30,000 lives and displaced one million people. A ceasefire was declared in 1994 but without any formal treaty or agreement about this region.

After the ceasefire Nagorno-Karabakh officially became part of the territory of Azerbaijan but came under the direct control of ethnic Armenians who are in majority in this region. But it continued to remain a major source of tension between these two countries. Even in 2016 Armenia and Azerbaijan locked horns over this region and as per the information the conflict broke out in the wee hours on 27th of September in which both countries exchanged fire which claimed the lives of scores of people within few days.

It was claimed by Armenia that Azerbaijan mobilized its military power including heavy artillery, war planes and tanks along the border of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia accused Azeri military forces for targeting civilian population. On the other hand, Azerbaijan rebuked these allegations and contended that Azeri forces used weapons in retaliation to the actions of Armenians. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan blamed each other for escalating the conflict.

United Nations condemned the use of force which is taking the toll on the peace and stability in the region and asked both sides to deescalate the conflict. The United States, France and Russia called for ‘immediate cessation of hostility’ in their joint statement. Nagorno-Karabakh is emerging as a major threat to peace and this time the conflict can take the shape of a full-fledged war not just between the two countries claiming the region but there are chances that other countries of the region may involve themselves in proxy war.

The involvement of external players particularly Turkey, Russia and Iran may lead to the proliferation of violence in other parts of the region. Armenians accused Turkey for supporting Azerbaijan by supplying weapons to it and claim that both countries want to conduct heinous crimes against majority Armenians living in the disputed territory. Whereas, Russia which shares border with Azerbaijan might take interest because of the involvement of Turkey in the conflict. Although Russia and Azerbaijan are trade partners and the former buys military weapons from the later yet Russia is somewhat tilted towards Armenia where it has a military base.

Iran which shares border with both Armenia and Azerbaijan enjoy cordial relations with both countries but because of the Turkish interest in the conflict and keeping in mind the Iranian interest in the Caspian Sea, Iran will support Armenia if the conflict transforms into a limited regional war. Although Israel is located far away from Caucasus region but it can also play a crucial role in this emerging conflict. Israel does not have direct interest in the dispute but Azerbaijan and Israel are close partners developed strategic relationship and economic cooperation. In fact, in the recent visuals of firing uploaded by Azerbaijan, the Spike anti-tank missile was bought from Israel and despite having sour relations with Turkey, Israel might support Azerbaijan.

But to address the conflict at the rudimentary level and to stop the violence causing the loss of lives of the innocent civilians living in the region, both countries must find a way to resolve the issue once and for all. It is the responsibility of Armenia and Azerbaijan to stop this conflict from becoming a deadly man-made catastrophe. The regional powers such as Turkey, Russia and Iran must keep their geo-political interests aside and should play a constructive role to stop the ongoing conflict. The world must recall the bitter experiences of the past when by not taking action or using insufficient measures caused heavy sufferings for the humanity in such and similar inter-state conflicts. At a time, when there is rare possibility of ceasefire in sight because of the adamant behavior of both the countries to find a way to deescalate the conflict and the involvement of external powers, the role of international community becomes more significant.

To maintain the status quo, the international community must exhaust all preventive measures to stop and settle down the conflict through peaceful means. Undoubtedly, effective prevention by using peaceful means described in the charter of UN such as- negotiation, arbitration, mediation and conciliation is less costly than the reactions after the conflict. The emerging conflict is a threat to international peace and a wakeup call for the international community. The international community particularly the great powers must tackle the ongoing crisis otherwise it may lead to drastic consequences not just for the region but for the whole world. If the conflict escalates further and both countries continue to use force against each other the international community must take the charge by using measures that may include political, diplomatic and economic actions to ease tensions between these two sides.

The time is calling for stern actions by the international community to bear down such and similar incidents which are responsible for disturbing peace and stability of the world. To eliminate or at least reduce the chances of a war between conflicting parties in any part of the world, international community must develop an early warning system to veto the emerging crisis which can spillover to other parts of the world. Early warning system not only includes the information and exact knowledge of the situation but also the analysis of the available data and implementation of policies based on the analysis. The failure of early warning mechanism sometimes does not indicate the lack of knowledge and associated risks but the timely response. On the grounds of early warning system, preventive toolbox i.e. preventive measures are used. These measures are used as per the requirements of the nature of the conflict and basically try to address the root causes of the conflict. Last but not least to effectively counter such situations political will is the most significant aspect of effective prevention of conflict. In the given scenario, the international community must join hands to effectively resolve the ongoing crises and should work collectively for a safe and secure future of peace and stability.

(Dr. Manan Dwivedi is a faculty at Indian Institute of Public Administration. Dr. Charu Ratna Dubey is a faculty at Gautam Buddha University)