BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
I am pleased to learn that the Republic of Armenia has finally decided to counter Pakistan’s persistently pro-Azeri, pro-Turkish, and anti-Armenian policies.
Last week, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported that Armenia vetoed Pakistan’s request for observer status in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in response to Pakistan’s anti-Artsakh (Karabakh) position.
Armenia argued that “Pakistan has refused to not only establish diplomatic relations with Armenia but also formally recognize the latter as an independent state,” according to RFE. Indeed, Pakistan is one of a handful of countries in the world that is yet to recognize Armenia after a quarter century of independence!
This relatively minor episode is a welcome development which shows that Armenia’s leaders are willing to flex their muscle from time to time. Such a move would also serve notice to other countries that Armenia is ready and willing to defend its interests and undermine those of its antagonists when necessary.
Pakistan’s anti-Armenian stance predates Armenia’s independence. I recall vividly the speeches of Pakistan’s Ambassadors to the United Nations in 1970’s and 1980’s, in support Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide, during the sessions of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland.
After Armenia became independent in 1991, Pakistan continued its hostile policies against Armenia and Artsakh, staunchly supporting both Azerbaijan and Turkey. Mercenary Mujahideen terrorists from Pakistan and Afghanistan were hired by Azerbaijan to fight Armenians during the Artsakh War. Since then, the leaders of Pakistan and Azerbaijan have visited each other on numerous occasions to bolster their economic and military ties. For example, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Syed Athar Ali, during a visit to Baku in 2010, discussed with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev the “strengthening of cooperation in the military sphere and defense industry,” according to APA (Azeri Press Agency). In response, President Aliyev thanked Pakistan for voting in the UN General Assembly in favor of “the resolution on the situation of the occupied Azerbaijani territories and for not recognizing Armenia in connection with the aggression against Azerbaijan.”
In March 2015, during his visit to Baku, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain declared: “We have always backed Azerbaijan’s fair position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Pakistan does not recognize Armenia as a state.” He also announced that Pakistan’s Senate had recognized as genocide the killings of Azeris by Armenians in Khojalu during the Artsakh war.
On April 5, 2016, during the barbaric attack by Azerbaijan’s military on Artsakh villagers, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry falsely blamed Armenia for “violating the ceasefire” by “continuous artillery firing.” Later that month, during his visit to Islamabad, Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Yavar Jamalov told Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Azerbaijan is keen on purchasing military hardware from Pakistan. A similar discussion was held on September 27, 2016, during a meeting in Baku between Pakistan’s Defense Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain and Aliyev.
On October 14, 2016, during his reciprocal visit to Azerbaijan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Aliyev about his country’s interest in holding joint military training. Nawaz also “called for complete return of occupied Azeri lands, withdrawal of Armenian forces, and return of displaced persons and refugees.” In return, Aliyev expressed his country’s support for Pakistan’s position on Jammu and Kashmir, in opposition to India. A month later, when Azerbaijan’s First Deputy Prime Minister Yaqub Eyyubov visited Pakistan, Hussain reminded him that Pakistan was the third country after Turkey and Romania to have recognized Azerbaijan. Hussain also thanked Azerbaijan for supporting Pakistan in its dispute with India over Jammu and Kashmir, and pledged to continue backing Azerbaijan’s claims on “Nagorno-Karabakh” (Artsakh).
Not to be outdone by Azerbaijan, Turkish President Erdogan visited Pakistan on November 17, 2016, where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his “second home.” In return, Erdogan proclaimed: “The whole world should emulate Pakistan!”
The Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora should continue countering Pakistan and other anti-Armenian states to discourage them from causing further damage to Armenia’s interests. Below are several suggested actions:
— Armenia should vote against pro-Pakistani issues in the UN General Assembly;
— Armenia should block Pakistan’s efforts to associate itself with the Eurasian Economic Union;
— Armenia should side with India in its dispute with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir;
— Armenian-Americans should urge the U.S. Congress to hold hearings on Pakistan’s grave human rights violations.