Interviews and press conferences
President Armen Sarkissian gave an interview to the Indian WION TV (World is One News)
In the interview with the Indian WION TV (World is One News), President Sarkissian spoke about the agenda of the Armenian-Indian relations, global challenges, tendencies in the development of the world economy, geopolitical transformations, and other issues.
- Let’s start with the events going on in your country. There will be early elections. In April, in one of your interviews you said that democratic changes finally kicked off in Armenia, however we have witnessed political shocks and transformations. Are you sure Armenia is going down the right course?
- I truly believe that Armenia has taken the right course. The changes started in April, surprisingly, they started after my inauguration. It should be understood that everything going on in our country is not just a revolution which was named a “velvet” revolution.
It’s a great achievement for our nation. I would like to underscore especially that this has been an achievement for the nation, not just individuals, even though individuals, such as the leader of the opposition Nikol Pashinian, have had their input to a peaceful progression of the revolution. I would also like to add that the former President and Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan also played a great role because he decided to leave the post rather than to confront which would create a problematic situation. And I am glad that we had that real, Armenian style revolution which the entire world spoke about, underscoring that the revolution was carried out with no bloodshed.
Now, we are facing another “revolution.” For 27 years, Armenia was a presidential republic. In the past, when we were part of the Soviet Union, it was purely presidential, the governance was vertical, from the top down. Now, we are transforming the system, swithching to a parliamentary republic. Certainly, these changes are not easy. I need to tell that this is also a generational revolution. Speaking of young, I don’t mean young people, but those who are young in spirit, mentality, new outlook and governance methods. One can be 60 or 70 years old, but young nevertheless. For me being young is not conditioned by one’s age but rather by one’s life vision.
- You said it was a revolution without a bloodshed. Some said that in some way it was inspired by Gandhi’s satyagraha which is civil disobedience with no violence. Do you see any similarities here?
- I don’t know how much the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and Indian experience influenced people on the streets, or young people, but they undoubtedly influenced me greatly. When I was offered to become president, for me it meant a radical change of life. A total change of the lifestyle. On the other hand, you realize that all that is worth sacrificing, because you serve your nation. The movement very fast reached the high point of confrontation, it became necessary for the President of the Republic to interfere. It was at this very moment that Ghandi’s personality inspired me. I went to the Republic Square where I met for the first time with the leaders of the opposition and future prime minister Nikol Pashinian, surrounded by thousands of people. Even though the movement was against the authorities, I was received very well. People were supportive. At the first, they were astonished to see the President walking down the street towards them. I took off my tie to become one of them because I was the only one wearing a tie there. I had to be one them, not different even if president. Now, I believe we can state with pride to the whole world that Armenians are able to make a bloodless revolution. Thus, the answer is the following: Yes, Mahatma Gandhi certainly influenced my mentality and emotions.
- What happened after the revolution?
- Expectations are great as it is after any revolution. There is a huge positive energy. The greatest challenge is not to betray the revolution, meaning the expectations must not dwindle. In the 21st century, things are moving very fast, people are waiting for the changes to happen. However, they are looking forward not to one but multiple changes, they want the society to become more free, they look for freedom, no corruption, they want the insitutions to function in a way which will exclude corruption, they want democracy to develop. The most important thing to improve people’s life is a good economy. To achieve all that in a short period of time is a great challenge indeed.
One of the ways to do it is still the same – the people. The people should believe that they are part of the solution or they are the solution itself. After all, the people have aspirations, great expectations from the leader or the government, thinging that if they have made a revolution, now it’s their turn. It is no accident that six months later they start to ask why they are not living better. The old story repeats itself. The Indian experience proves that changes are impossible without the society’s engagement or leaving the solutions to the government or leaders only. The critical factor here is the involvement and participation in these processes.
- You will be having elections in your country. As a person from India, I was surprised because in my country, when the country or a city is going through elections, the pre-election buzz is everywhere, there are posters, meetings. I read that the main part of the pre-election campaign was conducted via the Facebook live. I didn’t see many of leaders’ posters. Should I had not read a lot of papers, I wouldn’t guess there were elections going on and 24 hours later people would vote. The whole world is speaking about the impact on the people of false news, social network; is there a concern that there are probably external forces which are out of your control?
- I will try to answer in three points. First, my regards to India – the largest democracy of the world. More than one billion people in that country believe in democracy, no matter rich or poor.
Here, everyone believes that their vote is important. The entire society, people truly believe that their participation is important. That’s the thing I’ve mentioned before – our society should participate in the processes.
Second, today it’s the day of silence in Armenia (the interview took place on December 8, a day before the elections. Editor) and campaigning is forbidden. This is one of the reasons that the city is silent and calm. These laws are applicable in the material world, however with the virtual world it’s more complicated.
Third, the revolution, which can be called a “velvet” or Armenian style revolution, was phenomenal because a number of things were happening in the vitual realm. People were expressing their opinions in the Facebook or other platforms. The revolution too, was organized through the Facebook and new technologies. Armenia has scarce natural resources. Here, constant hard work and employment of one’s mind has always been our main tool and advantage. Armenians have always been very international. Armenians lived in Istanbul, Calcutta, everywhere.
- The Armenian Diasora abroad is four time larger than the population of your country.
- Yes, today too, everything stays the same. We continue to live in India, Manila, Singapore, China, Samarkand, Bukhara, Mancherster, and Lion. This is the people’s nature. What I am trying to say is that we are a kind of people for whom diligent work and mental capital is much more important than material things. Thus, it’s not surprising that the Facebook and tools of the 21st century are so popular in Armenia. From this point of view, people’s engagement became easier, however since in the virtual world many laws are not working, multiple challenges appear such as false or controlled, administered news. But that’s life; that’s the 21st century.
- How your neighbors view your determination? Do you think Armenia should reconsider its relations with the neighbors?
- The Acting Prime Minister stated that there will be no changes in our foreign policy which is quite natural. Russia Armenia’s natural partner. The cooperation did not start 10 or 100 years ago. We have been good allies for centuries. I trust we are, have been and will be unwavering and good allies.
- What would you say of Mr. Bolton’s statement - they offer selling American weapon to Armenia?
- It’s just an offer. Tomorrow there can be other offers too. I believe, it’s up to the government to decide what kind of weapon to acquire. The fact is that Armenia is the only country which can and has already been a bridge between the East and the West. We are members to the Eurasian Economic area, have good relations with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. For us, it was a very important step forward since when yhou look at the local, Armenian market, the economy of a country of 3.5 million people can not be very attractive.
- Angela Merkel recently declared that Russia creates instability in the Eastern Europe. In 2016, there were reports that many Armenians expressed discontent and Moscow answered that it was selling arms to Azerbaijan as well as Armenia. How is this possible?
- It would be difficult to prohibit any country to pursue different economic intersts. It pertains not only to our region. I am confident that there is a solution and that solution is a dialogue, tolerance and respect for people’s opinion. I think, currently in world we are losing the culture of talking to each other, of respecting each other. Unfortunately, we see all over the world that many international institutions, agreements, or rules of conduct are being broken. From this point of view, everything happening in our region – in Syria, which is not that distant from Armenia, in the Persian Gulf, Russian or Ukraine, is concerning for us.
- You’ve mentioned Urkaine and Russia. Do you think they are on the brink of war or it’s just a matter of positioning?
- Personally, I hope there will be no war. I hope that reason and logic will prevail. During my political meetings with various leaders, I am trying to convey this, the importance of thinking reasonably. There is a red line beyond which reason and logic do not work. After that only God can help you and us.
- Last year, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and India. How would you assess these relations and their potential?
- Historically, relations between our two countries have been excellent. I believe that people do not realize that our history is not centuries but millennia long. During my travels to India, I have encountered the evidence of our trade, cultural, even linguistic similarities of the Indo-european family of languages. If you look into the history of the nations based on languages, you will make astonishing findings. My son’s name is Vartan which in your language means “God given”. Am I right? It means that the word originated from old Hindi, and Vartan is not only my son’s name. It also the name of the national hero and the saint, who 1700 years led the Armenian army in the fight agains the Persian forces. The family of Sarkissians, from which I derive, had come from Calcatta; later they moved to Hong Kong, after that to Singapore. The famous hotel in Singapore was built by the Sarkissian family. All this comes to prove that our relations have a much longer history. I would suggest you visit the Matenadaran – the ancient museum-institute depository of manuscripts where you will find amazing samples of the Indian culture. Today, India and Armenia are sharing an important value. Both value the human potential. India is a large country, with abundant natural resources, however, your greatest asset are the people. The same is true here. This is the 21st century, and natural resources are yielding their place to people, innovations and creativity. We share many things, I and believe we can do much more with India. These are not just the words of a politician. I know many Indian businessmen with whom we have discussed all opportunities which can lead to cooperation, especially in the IT area. There is a simple reason for that – in India the IT sector is huge.
- What’s your take on our current Prime Minister Modi’s policies, how is he interacting with the world?
- I have great respect for him because I believe India is presenting itself to the world in a different way. India’s reputation in the world is much more positive, more dynamic and innovative. And all that is because of the Prime Minister’s work. I hope we will have the opportunity to meet and discuss the development of the relations between our countries. I deeply respect him.
- Could you please tell about your book on the quant behavior of global risks?
- It is about the realities of the 21st century which will be very different, and different will be not only risks.
The quant behavior is not a classical theory, just as the 21st century which will differ drastically from everything we saw in the 20th century. The quant behavior also means that we are tighly interconnected, events are happening instantly. Globalization will cross the red line, and it is not to be stopped. Macroglobalization will become microglobalization. We have entered the period of the swift evolution. Ideas, inspiration, availability will overtake parties, organizations, structures, etc. We will be living in a totally different world. The President of France Macron in a short period of time acquired many followers. This is an example of the quant behavior when people become interrelated and their expectations must be met today, not five years later but today or tomorrow.
India is one of those states where people day by day receive greater opportunities to communicate. Plans that the Prime Minister, the government, and industrialists have related to India and which I have heard about, are phenomenal and very different from the previous century.
Thus, welcome to the 21st century.
- You’re a scientist, ambassador, you’re known as the co-author of the famous Tetris game, you led the country during the revolution. What’s next?
- I didn’t lead the revolution. I simply tried to make it safe, to ensure it would go in a peaceful way. I was elected president for 7 years and still have 6 years in office in a world which is manifesting more and more of the quant behavior. Since I think a lot about this world, I hope, I will really understand where the world is heading, what my country’s and nation’s place in this world will be.