19:20 GMT28 October 2020
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    "India believes that any lasting resolution of the conflict can only be achieved peacefully through diplomatic negotiations. In this regard, we support the OSCE Minsk Group’s continued efforts for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan", New Delhi said in its official statement on Thursday.

    India is faced with a "serious dilemma" on how to approach the ongoing hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region because of the "principle of self-determination", India's former envoy to Yerevan Achal Malhotra told Sputnik on Friday.

    "By backing Armenia's stand, India will willy-nilly be endorsing the right to self-determination", remarked Malhotra. The two south Caucasian neighbours have been involved in a renewed round of conflict since 27 September over the Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-proclaimed republic which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

    Both Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of triggering hostilities, which have claimed many lives in six days.

    "There is an accepted interest of territorial integrity involved in the conflict. India's backing of Armenian secessionists' demands could have diplomatic repercussions for us on Kashmir", said Malhotra, who served as India's Ambassador to Armenia between 2009 and 2012.

    The former diplomat, however, stressed that the Kashmir dispute was an altogether different dispute, where it had acceded to the Indian Union under its former king, Maharaja Hari Singh in 1948. "It is Pakistan which illegally controls that territory now", he stated.

    "However, Pakistan and Turkey will go haywire and try to twist the perception among the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) bloc against India", said Malhotra.

    A statement by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Friday said that it supported Azerbaijan's position on Nagorno-Karabakh, which is in line with several unanimously adopted United Nations Security Council resolutions. However, Islamabad denied reports of it providing military support to Baku.

    Referring to Azerbaijan's perceived support for India's rival Pakistan on the question of Kashmir, Malhotra remarked that there was nothing stopping India from taking sides now.

    The former envoy noted that India's official statement on Thursday called for ceasing hostilities and backing of the OSCE Minsk Group consensus. 

    "We have endorsed the role of the OSCE Minsk Group in settling the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region", he said. Malhotra also stressed that even the OSCE Minsk Group had not been "quite supportive" of the right to self-determination of the Armenian-majority region.

    The three co-chairs of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group have appealed to both Baku and Yerevan to "cease hostilities" and "resume negotiations to find a sustainable resolution of the conflict".

    Malhotra also underlines that India no doubt had been more close to Armenia than Azerbaijan since diplomatic ties between the sides were developed in 1992.

    "Since 1992, there have been three presidential-level visits from Armenia (1995, 2003, and 2017) and three visits to India at the level of Foreign Minister (2000, 2006, and 2010)", per India's Ministry of External Affairs.

    Two Indian vice presidents have also been on official visits to Armenia since formal diplomatic ties were adopted between the two in 1992, pointed out Malhotra.

    On the other hand, there hasn't been a single high-level leadership exchange between India and Azerbaijan, noted the ex-envoy.

    "I would say that the diplomatic ties are fine but they are peripheral to India’s dilemma", he said.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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