Asian Security: a Way forward

Letters to the Editor | May 14, 2009, Thursday // 17:20

By Dulat Bakishev

Executive Director of the Secretariat,
Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA)


It is a well known fact that Asia has both: a huge potential for development and a multitude of unresolved and potential conflicts that undermine its stability. Asians also know that new challenges and threats are interconnected, and there is an inextricable link between development and security. 

For this reason, security challenges, old and new, require coordinated and comprehensive response. The importance of confidence building and preventive measures also cannot be overlooked.

Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was convened by Asian states for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. The idea of convening CICA was first proposed by H.E. Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on 5 October 1992, at the 47th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The moving spirit was the aspiration to set up an efficient multilateral structure for ensuring peace and security in Asia. Unlike other regions in the world, Asia did not have such a structure at that time and earlier attempts had not been very successful.

This initiative was supported by a number of Asian countries (China, India, Pakistan and Russia among them) who felt that such a structure was the need of the time. One of the reasons for this support was the fact that CICA aimed to strengthen mutual understanding and create harmoniously designed security system on the Asian continent.

CICA offered an opportunity to all Asian states not only for better understanding of each other's security concerns and to cooperate on monitoring and managing conflict issues, but also to help resolve some other problems by interaction in variety of areas.

There were, of course, skeptics who thought that the idea was not workable because of the extreme diversity of the continent and existence of multiple flash points with significant conflict potentials.

The skeptics have, however, been proved wrong and today CICA is one of the most diverse and ambitious groupings seeking mutually acceptable measures for resolving problem and conflicts in the region through dialogue and confidence building measures among the member states.

Continued relevance of CICA is demonstrated by the fact that its membership has risen from sixteen to twenty in last five years. CICA Member States account for nearly ninety percent of the area and population of Asia.

CICA's reach extends from Turkey in the west to Republic of Korea in the east encompassing countries in Eurasia, Middle East, South, South East and East Asia. This is perhaps the only platform outside of United Nations where countries, which do not have diplomatic relations, come together for exchange views and arrive at understandings on issues of common interest.

During the earlier years of its formation, member states worked hard to prepare an adequate legal basis. They drew up the Declaration on the principles guiding relations between the CICA Member States adopted at the first Ministerial Meeting in 1999, the Almaty Act adopted at the first Summit Meeting in 2002 and the Catalogue of CICA Confidence Building Measures adopted during the Second Ministerial Meeting in 2004.

These founding documents laid down the comprehensive approaches for addressing contemporary issues like conflict resolution, international terrorism, disarmament and arms control, confidence building measures, drug trafficking, illegal sale of fire-arms and nuclear materials, humanitarian issues including human trafficking, promotion of trade and well being of the people of Asia.

From 2007 CICA has started the process of implementation of confidence building measures. Twelve member states are coordinating confidence building measures in wide range of issues including interaction in cultural, religious and educational affairs, tourism, development of small and medium enterprises, information technology, energy security, development of secure transport corridors, environment, disaster management, drug trafficking and meeting new threats and challenges.

CICA will soon initiate deliberations on military-political issues which are vital for creating a common and indivisible area of security in Asia.

Confidence building measures on military-political issues will help in accurate understanding of one another's security concerns; hopefully, pave the way for stable political and diplomatic relations; and, most importantly, encourage moves to identify shared security needs.

We must shape our common destiny. Asian states need to overcome their narrow perceptions and collectively address common challenges and threats. No outside model can substitute necessary work or do the trick.

CICA is in the process of developing its own model in a gradual and step by step manner. A modest beginning can be made by allowing each member state to articulate its security perceptions.

For this purpose, CICA Secretariat plans to publish Annual Outlook on Economic, Social and Security Issues in the CICA Region containing views of member states on security issues facing the region and proposals for addressing these issues.

This can be followed by gradual incremental steps in implementing confidence building measures on the basis of consensus.

Kazakhstan is the founding Chairman of CICA. It has successfully held the Chairmanship since the first summit in 2002. Turkey, which has been one of the most active members of CICA, will be assuming the Chairmanship in 2010.

It is expected that henceforth, there will be regular rotation of chairmanship every two years which will bring new dynamism and new ideas to the forum.

CICA has adopted very fine basic documents and important political declarations. It has successful organized two summits and three Ministerial Meetings.

During the short period since its inception, CICA has made big strides in its endeavour to find ways and means to eliminate the causes of mistrust, tension and hostility and create conditions for sustainable peace in Asia and economic growth of Asian states.

But we need to do more. Today, security is indivisible. No nation can defend itself alone against contemporary threats and challenges. Asia needs a comprehensive system of collective security.

The challenge is whether we have a collective will to take concrete steps and rise to the occasion. Can we translate words and commitments into action?

Third Summit Meeting of CICA in Turkey in 2010 offers us the opportunity to take steps forward on that path.

This article was submitted by the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Sofia, Bulgaria


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