The Armenian diaspora is looking to team up with its Indian-American counterparts against their home countries’ common foe, Pakistan.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has joined forces with a longtime Indian-American community leader as it seeks to draw attention to Pakistan’s alleged military support for Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey in last year’s conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The charge, first levied by the Armenian National Security Service at the height of the conflict last October, was widely picked up by media in India, which has had a fraught relationship with Pakistan since partition in 1947.
“That’s a common thread I think that runs through our experiences, is that we’re victims of Pakistani aggression,” ANCA’s executive director Aram Hamparian said in an online chat (see video below) this week with Jay Kansara, until recently the director for government relations at the Hindu-American Foundation and a longtime friend of Hamparian’s.
“There’s just a lot of interaction between our communities at the social level, educational level, commercial level, but not yet at the civic or advocacy level,” Hamparian said during his exchange with Kansara. “And I think that’s really a great place for us to grow.”
ANCA notably hopes to get support from the 4 million-strong Indian diaspora in its new campaign calling on the Joe Biden administration to sanction Pakistan as a terrorist financing state. The group has an action alert to its members inviting them to sign on to a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging that Pakistan be added to a blacklist of countries deemed to be non-cooperative in the global effort to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism “due to its recent support for Azerbaijan’s war crimes.”
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental group based in Paris dedicated to fighting money laundering and terrorism financing, placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in 2018 over allegations that its financial systems had loopholes that allowed funding for terrorist and militant groups. The designation steered foreign investment away from the country, and Islamabad was given 27 a list of action items by the FATF to address in order to be removed from the list. Pakistan has until June to address the issues.
“We think that this new information about what Pakistan did with Azerbaijan elevates their problem [with the FATF],” Hamparian told Foreign Lobby Report. “It takes it to a new level, it goes beyond just the South Asian issue and makes it more of a global issue.”
Pakistan firmly denies the claims that it aided Azerbaijan militarily, calling them “ irresponsible propaganda” and insisting that it only supported Azerbaijan diplomatically. The Pakistani Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
The Armenian government itself has also courted India’s help on the issue. Soon after the national security service first made it claim, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan conducted an interview with Indian news channel WION (World Is One News) claiming that “armed fighters from Pakistan are participating in the war.” During the conflict the hashtag #IndiaSupportsArmenia was trending on social media.
Kansara, a hawkish supporter of India’s territorial claims over disputed Kashmir, came under fire from some Indian-American groups for his open support for President Donald Trump during the 2020 campaign. But while the Indian diaspora has a diversity of views, he expressed hope that it will be able to find common ground with its Armenian counterpart when it comes to Pakistan.
“These two communities, given that they have been pretty recent victims of this type of aggression, have first-hand knowledge that we can present to lawmakers across the political spectrum here in America,” Kansara said in an interview.
Common issues the two communities can collaborate on, he said, include lobbying against US arms sales to Pakistan and Turkey. He added that the two diasporas can also bond over their shared traumas, including pressing the US to recognize as genocides both the 1915 Armenian massacre by the Ottoman Empire and the 1971 massacre of mostly Hindu Bengalis by Pakistani forces and their allies in newly independent Bangladesh.
Just today, ANCA responded to a tweet from Kansara’s former group, the Hindu American Foundation, announcing a virtual commemoration of the 1971 massacre on March 23. “Honored — as Armenian survivors — to support this solemn remembrance,” ANCA retweeted.
“We feel that there is a budding relationship that is forming between our two communities in the diaspora here in the United States,” Kansara said.