India, Georgia and Armenia: Past Closeness and Present Geopolitics 
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 20 Mar , 2024

Indo-Armenian Prince of Georgia 

In the Southern part of India is located the city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, and here in the Armenian cemetery is interred a millionaire merchant who played an important role as a link between India, Armenia and Georgia. Not just did he, by his wealth help the ruler of this region (Carnatic region of India) but he even helped the King of Georgia. It has been written about him by Mesrovb Jacob Seth, that he tore the promissory note of the Nawab of Carnatic in front of him and cancelled the debt that the Nawab owed to this Armenian, making the Nawab so happy that he gave him the village of Noomblee in India as his family fiefdom. 

This merchant even helped King Erekele II of Georgia, he sent him gifts every year in order to help him create an independent Georgian-Armenian kingdom. In reward the King presented him with the large village of Loris and directed RafailDanibegashvili to take the title-deed to him. Danibegashvilitravelled a lot in India about which this author has written an entire article before. The name of this merchant was AgahShameer (Shameer Soolthanoomian), the head of the Shameerfamily, who died at Madras in 1797. His son Jacob, started at Madras in 1772 the first Armenian press in India. In fact, the first Armenian journal ever printed in any part of the world was published at Madras, by the Rev. Arathoon Shumavon, an Armenian priest of Shiraz. He started the Azdarar (i.e. ‘Intelligencer’) on the 28th October 1794, and published it monthly for eighteen consecutive months until February 1796. Its centenary jubilee was celebrated in 1894 by Armenian journalists in Tbilisi (then Tiflis) capital of Georgia. 

King Erekele II, of Georgia even made Agah Shameer a Georgian prince by a royal edict! He nominated Agah Shameerand his male children as Princes of Georgia and sent him, at the same time, a Coat of Arms. Given below is an English translation of the edict from which it appears that Agah Shameerof Madras in India was held in very high esteem by the sovereign of far-off Georgia. “By the Grace of God, we of the race of Jesse, David, Solomon, Bagratoony, the son of the anointed Thamraz, King of Georgia and King of Kakh, natural ruler of Samtzkhe, Saathabegoo, lord of Qachakh, lord of Borshaloo, lord of Shamshadin, lord of Kakoo, lord of Shakhoo, lord of Shirwan, conqueror and ruler of Ganja and Erivan, Heraclius the Second. 

Be it known to all men that whereas Shameer, the son of Sultan of Julfa, in Ispahan, and his ancestors, have had love and fidelity towards our ancestors and towards us as well, since their coming to Asia in the days of the former kings of Persia and of Nadir Shah. He [Shameer] having now revived the same from the remote country of India, has displayed, in manifold ways, his loyalty and useful suggestions to our kingdom. He is therefore nominated by us as a Prince of Georgia,” This Indo-Armenian Prince indeed strengthened the friendship of all these three countries. But this is part of annals of history what is the present condition of diplomatic relations between these countries? 

Present Geopolitics 

India does not have a resident mission in Georgia her ambassador to Armenia with residence in Yerevan (Armenia) is concurrently accredited to Georgia, her relations with both Armenia and Georgia have been friendly, and over the last few years, India’s geopolitical influence in the South Caucasus has increased tremendously. India is world’s most populous country, with world’s fifth largest economy (world’s GDP ranking 2024), world’s second largest army, largest democracy and is a nuclear power, she has been using her geopolitical power in South Caucasus increasingly over the past few years, Michael Rubin Senior Fellow of American Enterprise Institute writes “India Shows Caucasus Diplomacy Isn’t Just for Russia and Turkey Anymore.”  

Mr. Rubin goes on to write “A choice between Russia, Turkey, and Iran is akin to choosing between a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. India provides an antidote to dictatorship, rentierism, and extremism. The Caucasus are in flux. India could be the ally its democrats need.” India has shown the willingness to strengthen its ties with Georgia and Armenia but India’s ties with Russia is a cause of concern for her South Caucasian friends. As per Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, India and Russia are time tested friends, and indeed India’s diplomatic relationship with Russia has been devoid of the severe ups and downs’ that has been common in Russia’s diplomatic relations with other countries. So how does India intends to keep all her friends happy? The answer is by helping improve ties between Russia, Armenia and Georgia, using its friendly relations with all three.

Both Georgia and Armenia are post-Soviet countries and have had historical connections with Russia but presently are not so fond of her because of geopolitical reasons. Georgia has multiple problems with Russia, from her occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (as per Georgia), to the painful history of 2008 Russia-Georgia war, but the present government of the Georgian Dream Party is following a pragmatic approach towards Russia. Armenia even though maintained better ties with Russia than Georgia did, but is moving away towards the “western bloc” slowly, especially after the so called Russian apathy towards Armenian interests during and after the Second Nagarno-Karabakh war. India’s interests are in maintenance of cordiality between these countries, for that as mentioned before it has to use its good offices in all these countries. 

Why Work Together? 

Georgia and Armenia are Orthodox Christian countries with two Muslim Turkic countries on their East and West, Azerbaijan and Türkiye respectively. The Turkish threat is not just focused on Georgia and Armenia but extends to the borders of India, because of Pakistan an irresponsible nuclear power is an ally of Türkiye and Azerbaijan. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has challenged the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all these three countries, he gave a speech in October 2016 in Rize, less than 100 miles from the Georgian border in which he said “Our physical boundaries are different from the boundaries of our heart,..Is it possible to separate Rize from Batumi?” 

Even though Turkish government has asserted that it supports the sovereignty and integrity of Georgia, and statement of Erdogan has been misunderstood but this statement is nevertheless a cause of concern for Georgians who firmly believe Adjara is a part of Georgia. Erdogan has openly denied Armenian genocide and supported Azerbaijan in her war against Armenia, in the Baku victory day parade he declared, “Today, may the souls of Nuri Pasha, Enver Pasha, and the brave soldiers of the Caucasus Islam Army, be happy,” Nuri and Enver are infamous for massacring Armenians, he has also compared India’s Kashmir with Canakalle and supported Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, even though a genocide was committed by Pakistan sponsored terrorists of Hindu Kashmiris.

The Türkiye, Azerbaijan and Pakistan nexus is a cause of concern for not just India and Armenia but even Georgia. Democratic India’s support to Armenia has been a substantial reason for peace in the South Caucasus. Last year Armenia proposed a Persian Gulf-Black Sea corridor to connect Indian traders with Russia and Europe. Armenia and Georgia can help provide India much needed connectivity to Europe, Persian Gulf-Black Sea corridor can be a viable alternative of International North South Corridor in which Azerbaijan is a member. 

Thousands of Indian students are studying in Armenia and Georgia specially medicine contributing significantly towards the economy of these countries, India has a huge market and there is a huge scope of Armenian and Georgian investments in India, especially in food industry “Georgian Pizza” the Imerulikhachapuri and “Armenian Naan” Lavash deserve place in restaurants in Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of India. Middle class Indians with increased disposable income are looking for new countries to explore, Armenia and Georgia are beautiful countries and Indian tourist flow can be attracted by them. Direct flights between Delhi and Tbilisi have started and they should start between Delhi and Yerevan too. Even sky is not the limit for the economic and military partnership between India, Armenia and Georgia. 

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Arunansh B. Goswami

is an advocate, historian and Author who also Heads Scindia Research Centre, Scindia Palace Gwalior.

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