Does the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) have a future?
The sixth two-day summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) ended in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on October 13. The CICA meeting saw the presence of 11 heads of state, including the presidents of Azerbaijan, Belarus (observer), Iran, Kazakhstan (host), Kyrgyzstan, State of Palestine, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, as well as the Emir of Qatar. The vice presidents of China and Vietnam also attended the summit. A total of 50 delegations including several ministers participated in the Summit. Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs, represented India at the Summit.
The CICA is a multinational forum for enhancing cooperation to promote peace, security and stability in Asia. It is a forum based on the recognition that there is a close link between peace, security and stability in Asia and the rest of the world. Member States, while affirming their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, believe that peace and security in Asia can be achieved through dialogue and cooperation leading to an indivisible common security area in Asia where all States coexist peacefully. and their peoples live in peace. , freedom and prosperity. Currently, the CICA has 27 member states representing almost 90% of the territory and population of Asia. Nine countries and five multinational organizations, including the United Nations, have observer status. The procedure for accepting Kuwait as a new member was launched at the Astana summit.
The idea of convening the CICA was first proposed by former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on October 5, 1992, during the 47th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The initiative was motivated by the aspiration to establish a structure to ensure peace and security in Asia. This initiative was supported by a number of Asian countries who felt that such a structure was the need of the time.
The two founding documents of the CICA are the Declaration on the Principles Governing the Relations between the Member States of the CICA adopted at the First Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Almaty on September 14, 1999 and the Act of Almaty, Charter of the CICA, adopted at the first summit held in Almaty on June 4, 2002.
The creation of a climate of trust between member states is at the heart of the fundamental objectives of the CICA. The CICA’s Catalog of Confidence Building Measures describes various measures in this regard. Within this framework, CBMs are classified into five main areas: economic dimension, environmental dimension, human dimension, new challenges and threats, and military-political dimension.
The ICCA Secretariat is headquartered in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Secretariat is composed of the Executive Director (designation changed to Secretary General at the recent Summit) appointed by the chairing country. This position is currently held by the eminent and highly respected Kazakh diplomat, Ambassador Kairat Sarybay.
In his opening address, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for a new impetus in multilateral mechanisms and a return to open dialogue. He said “the most important task” now is to achieve stability in international relations in the face of great threats.
In his video address to the CICA Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “I am grateful for our partnership in pursuing our common goals of advancing sustainable development. He added that over the past 30 years, the CICA has become a vital platform for dialogue among Asian countries.
The most significant outcome of the Summit was the adoption of the Astana Declaration on the transformation of CICA from a conference into a full-fledged organization during the October 13 plenary session. According to Executive Director/Secretary General Sarybay: “This means that a structured, inclusive and open negotiation process for the gradual and consensual transformation of the CICA into a fully-fledged regional international organization has begun.” This historic decision was a key priority of the Kazakh CICA Chairmanship in 2020-2022. The importance of this transformation was first underlined by President Tokayev in October 2021 during his meeting with CICA foreign ministers. He said at the time that the CICA had all the elements of an international organization, including basic documents, governing and working bodies, an operating budget, a permanent secretariat, and that its transformation “will emphasize on Asia’s new role in world affairs.
The summit also adopted a draft declaration on cooperation in security and the use of information and communication technologies, a document establishing the CICA Fund and an implementation plan for the global counter-terrorism strategy. United Nations.
In her plenary statement, Meenakshi Lekhi, MOS(EA), said that the philosophy of CICA is in line with India’s support for inclusive, consultative and cooperative multilateralism and with our fundamental philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means that the world is one family. This guides India’s foreign policy in general and, to an even greater extent, in its relations with Asia. She added that this belief was evident during the Covid pandemic when ”while providing for our own people, India did not abdicate its responsibility to humanity as a whole” and ”provided vaccines, medicines and medical supplies, as well as expertise for more than 150 nations.”
Lekhi recounted India’s achievements in promoting the SDGs through its flagship initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI); digitization among others. Furthermore, she conveyed India’s resolute stance in the fight against terrorism.
Ahead of India’s statement, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif accused India of committing atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was up to New Delhi to engage with Pakistan in a result-oriented manner. Reacting strongly to Pakistan’s statement, Lekhi urged Islamabad to immediately end cross-border terrorism to create conditions for dialogue. She accused Pakistan of once again using the CICA platform to “promote false and malicious propaganda” against India and divert attention from the grouping’s discussions. She accused Sharif’s remarks of “gross interference in the internal affairs, sovereignty and territorial integrity of India” and of being inconsistent with the CICA principles guiding relations between member states. She called Pakistan the global epicenter of terrorism and advised it to “follow the chops in creating the right atmosphere, including taking credible, verifiable and irreversible steps to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorism. cross-border against India.”
In his detailed statement, Lekhi identified the CICA as “an important platform for promoting multilateralism in a diverse and multipolar Asia”. She recalled the statement of the then Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during his participation in the first CICA summit in Almaty in 2002. that “in our tendency to focus on the conflicts of the day, we should not not forget or minimize our common past”.
During the 6th Summit organized to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the CICA, several important and far-reaching decisions were taken, the most important being to “launch structured, inclusive and transparent negotiations for a process of transformation of the CICA into a fully fledged regional international organization.” This transformation will enable CICA to play a more decisive and forceful role in promoting peace, security and stability in Asia than it has been able to. so far. Several new names for this body have been suggested, which would mark the metamorphosis of this platform from a conference to a fully fledged global organization.
The “Chairman’s Conclusions on the Achievements and Discussions of the Sixth Summit” does not make for very impressive or enjoyable reading. Unfortunately, he lacks focus and direction. It is a potpourri of disparate thoughts, positions and views from different countries on a variety of issues with little coherence. One might not have expected anything different because of the nature of the Organization that has existed so far. It is to be hoped that in the future the new Organization will be able to make a useful contribution to the promotion of understanding and co-operation among the countries of Asia.
The CICA is senior, both in terms of years of existence and composition of the body, compared to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the other regional body active in the fields of security, economy, connectivity, the fight against terrorism etc. It is obvious that the CICA has some catching up to do with its little brother. It is to be hoped that the changes suggested within the body at the Astana Summit will make it a more credible and effective Organization.
In the future, it should be ensured that bilateral issues remain strictly outside the remit of the body. It has been observed that Pakistan is a serial offender in this regard. It is absolutely imperative to curb such tendencies from Pakistan or any other country. Actions like this speak poorly of the integrity and trustworthiness of the wandering country, and also diminish the credibility and dignity of the platform on which they speak.
Notwithstanding the shortcomings cited above, the new organization should be better able to make a vital and essential contribution to ensuring peace, security, stability and prosperity in Asia and around the world.
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(Ashok Sajjanhar is a former Indian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis and President of the Institute of Global Studies. Opinions expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)