September 20, 2013

Armenia and Pakistan: Time for Change?

By Maxim Edwards, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

On the 21st of September 2013, the Republic of Armenia celebrates the 22nd anniversary of its independence. Great strides have been taken over the past 22 years in developing Armenia's overseas friendships. Nevertheless, bilateral relations with some countries have not been as successful. Whilst Turkey and Azerbaijan recognize Armenia's independence, neither maintains diplomatic relations with it. Similarly, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen maintain no diplomatic relations with Armenia, whilst Armenia's relations with EU member-state Hungary were suspended following the extradition of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan.

However, one UN member, Pakistan, the majority Muslim country of 182 million, refuses to recognize Armenia as an independent state. In February 2012, Pakistan's ambassador in Baku reaffirmed his government's stance on Nagorno-Karabakh, stating that Pakistan would not recognize Armenian independence unless Armenian forces ended their violation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.Pakistan's 'brotherly Muslim relations' with Azerbaijan due to 'historical, ethnic continuity' of Muslim people,have also led Baku to support Pakistan over Kashmir.


Despite Azerbaijan and Pakistan's mutual diplomatic support and co-operation in educational exchanges, joint economic ventures and military technology, Azerbaijanis appear not to value their country's relationship with Pakistan as a particularly important one. According to the CRRC's 2012 Caucasus Barometer, just 0.3% of respondents in Azerbaijan saw Pakistan as their country's biggest friend, compared to 95.5% for Turkey and 2% for Russia (see Graph 1).

Graph 1. 

Note however that these respondents were asked to name only their country's best friend, so to speak. Whether Pakistan would have proven more popular had respondents been able to name more than one country is worth considering.
Similarly, Pakistan is not perceived by Armenians as an enemy; when asked who they considered country's biggest enemy, 61.8% of respondents in Armenia chose Azerbaijan and 35.1% Turkey (See Graph 2). 

Graph 2. 

Of the four other majority Muslim countries which do not maintain diplomatic relations with Armenia (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen), none were mentioned by respondents. Meantime, Armenia has some trade with them (see the table below). 


Table 1. External Trade Database by country, 2012





However, for Pakistanis wishing to satisfy their curiosity about Armenia, there is always a chance. 'The biggest shock for me' says Farooq, a student, journalist and researcher from Pakistan living in Erfurt, Germany, - 'was that even though I had an Armenian friend, I hadn't known that my country didn't recognise Armenia'.Specializing in conflict analysis and being published many times, and perceiving Armenia as an ideal country to learn more and write an article, Farooq applied for the CRRC International Fellowship.  Once selected as an International Fellow, Farooq was ready to leave for Armenia to start his ten-week fellowship. Predictably, the process was time-consuming, and, though, he received a visa, due to personal reasons he never arrived.  

Nevertheless, Farooq is determined to visit Armenia, and should another opportunity arise, he would not miss it. He especially wants to study and try bridging the gulf he sees between Armenia and Pakistan. As he said, ‘ I am sure I will visit CRRC, Yerevan and Armenia one day. I am also sure that one day the situation in terms of relations would also improve solely because Armenia is the land of nice people and hospitality’. He believes that 'the youth will surely wish to reach out to Armenia, making Armenian friends like me and improving ties between both countries'.