Muhammad Asif Noor

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) stands as a remarkable multilateral forum, dedicated to promoting peace, security, and stability across the diverse Asian continent.

Initiated by the visionary leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, CICA has emerged as a beacon of hope, emphasizing dialogue, cooperation, and confidence-building measures as the building blocks of peaceful world order.

The historical background and unique features of CICA help to explore the organization’s significant role in reshaping Asia in a new global context.

CICA is committed to inclusivity, consensus-based decision-making, and confidence-building measures. The contributions of CICA in fostering and creating a more harmonious and prosperous Asia are remarkable.

It is a platform where nations come together to address shared challenges and work towards a common future of peace and stability.

The success of CICA lies in its recognition of the interconnectedness of security and the collective desire for peace, fostering close interactions among both small and significant states in Asia.

Emergence of CICA and Structure

President Nursultan Nazarbayev first proposed the concept of CICA during the 47th General Assembly Session of the United Nations in 1992. CICA was born from President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s vision for indivisible peace and security for Central Asia and the broader Asian region.

With the end of the Cold War, President Nazarbayev recognized the need to transcend past tensions and create a new global setting of peace and stability.

However, it took several years for this vision to materialize, and CICA finally held its first conference for Foreign Ministers in 1999, with the participation of 15 member states.

Over time, CICA has grown into a major Asian grouping, with 28 full member states, nine observer states, and five observer international organizations. Notably, countries like China, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, and Japan have joined as observer member states, highlighting the significance and influence of CICA in the Asian region.

CICA acknowledges the strong link between peace, stability, and security in Asia and the rest of the world. This notion of peace in Asia as a prerequisite for global peace was a defining principle of Kazakh leadership in the 1990s and continues to hold true today.

The two founding documents of CICA, the Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations between the CICA Member States and the Almaty Act, were adopted in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

These documents served as the foundation for the future development of CICA, outlining the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in internal affairs, and economic, social, and cultural cooperation among member states.

These principles are crucial in enhancing cooperation and achieving peace, security, and stability in Asia. Importantly, all decisions within the CICA framework are made by consensus, ensuring the participation and agreement of all member states.

The highest decision-making body of CICA is the Meeting of the CICA Heads of State and Government, also known as the Summit, which takes place every four years.

The Summit conducts consultations, reviews progress, and sets priorities for CICA activities.

The Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held every two years, serves as the central forum for consultations and discussions on all issues related to CICA.

The Senior Officials Committee meets regularly to follow up on previous decisions, coordinate the work of other meetings, and oversee the Special Working Group, which studies specific issues and submits reports to the committee.

CICA with a vision of building a peaceful landscape

CICA’s primary objective is to enhance cooperation and ensure peace, security, and stability in Asia. It achieves this by promoting dialogue, fostering mutual understanding, and strengthening relationships among member states.

By providing a platform for open discussions and consensus-based decision-making, CICA facilitates the peaceful resolution of conflicts and disputes. This approach helps create an atmosphere of trust and confidence among nations, laying the foundation for a harmonious and prosperous Asia.

One of CICA’s unique characteristics is its focus on confidence-building measures (CBMs). These measures encompass various domains, including economics, the environment, human rights, new challenges and threats, and the military-political dimension.

By implementing CBMs, CICA aims to promote goodwill and cooperation, gradually building trust and paving the way for more extensive security arrangements.

Initiatives such as counterterrorism efforts, border control management, transportation corridors, illicit drug control, and natural disaster management all contribute to fostering a secure and stable Asian region.

CICA recognizes the importance of engaging with external actors to achieve its goals. It actively seeks to establish ties with regional and international organizations, such as the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

These partnerships enable CICA to leverage the expertise and resources of these organizations, facilitating greater cooperation in areas such as economic development, security, and counterterrorism efforts.

Kazakhstan’s Important Role  Chairmanship 

Kazakhstan’s significant role in hosting the CICA Secretariat further highlights its commitment to the success of CICA.

The Secretariat, located in Astana, serves as the administrative body of CICA, supporting the implementation of its activities and fostering communication among member states. This central hub plays a vital role in ensuring the smooth functioning of CICA and the effective coordination of its initiatives.

Kazakhstan has played a significant role in the success of CICA, having chaired the organization from 2002 to 2010, 2020-2022, and assuming the chairmanship again from 2022 to 2024.

During all these chairmanship periods at CICA, what has remained common is the significant contribution in not only supporting building CICA as a multilateral organization but at the same time contributing towards projecting the regional values of peace and prosperity.

For instance, the 6th Summit of CICA in 2022 celebrated the 30th anniversary of its establishment for the promotion of peace and prosperity in Asia.

Leveraging its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Kazakhstan has utilized CICA to promote its regional economic agenda. This has positioned Kazakhstan as a hub for trade, investment, and connectivity within Asia.  Moreover, Kazakhstan’s leadership role in CICA has enabled the country to exercise soft power and diplomacy within the Asian context.

By providing a platform for dialogue and cooperation, Kazakhstan has gained influence and recognition as a major player in regional affairs. This has also facilitated the strengthening of bilateral and multilateral relations between Kazakhstan and other Asian countries.

Through its emphasis on regional security, confidence-building measures, mediation, and economic cooperation, Kazakhstan has added value to its agenda and solidified its position as a key player in the Asian context.

As CICA continues to evolve and adapt to emerging challenges, Kazakhstan’s commitment to its success remains unwavering.

CICA as a platform for dialogue and mediation

CICA provides a venue for member states to engage in dialogue and mediation, promoting peaceful resolutions to conflicts. Kazakhstan’s active involvement in mediation efforts, such as hosting talks on the Iranian nuclear program, has further enhanced its leadership credentials and added value to its agenda within the Asian context.

CICA’s membership composition, which includes countries like Pakistan, India, Palestine, and Israel, indeed gives the forum a unique position as a platform for dialogue and cooperation.

This diverse membership reflects the inclusive nature of CICA and its commitment to promoting peace and stability in the region. By providing an avenue for these countries to engage in constructive dialogue, CICA plays a positive role in creating a peaceful world.

CICA’s commitment to dialogue allows member countries to address their differences and concerns through peaceful means.

The forum provides a space for open discussions, allowing countries with historical or ongoing conflicts, such as Pakistan and India, or Palestine and Israel, to come together and engage in constructive conversations.

This dialogue-oriented approach fosters understanding, empathy, and mutual respect, laying the groundwork for conflict resolution and promoting peaceful coexistence.

Moreover, CICA offers a neutral and non-confrontational platform for these countries to interact and build relationships. By participating in CICA, countries have the opportunity to engage in informal discussions, side meetings, and other diplomatic engagements.

These interactions, facilitated by CICA’s inclusive framework, create an environment conducive to trust-building and promoting peaceful relations. Through sustained dialogue and interaction, member countries can establish channels of communication and explore avenues for cooperation, even in the face of longstanding conflicts.

By providing a space where all member countries have an equal say, CICA fosters a sense of ownership and shared responsibility, which can contribute to resolving disputes and promoting peaceful coexistence.

By providing a platform where these countries can participate on an equal footing, CICA encourages them to move beyond their differences and explore opportunities for cooperation, which can contribute to long-term peace and stability in the region.

It is important to note that CICA does not replace or replicate the role of the UN. Instead, it complements the UN’s efforts by offering an additional avenue for dialogue and cooperation among member countries.

While the UN focuses on global issues and multilateral diplomacy, CICA’s regional focus allows for more targeted discussions and tailored approaches to address specific challenges faced by Asian countries. CICA’s unique forum, therefore, serves as a valuable complement to the UN, providing a space for dialogue and cooperation specific to the Asian region.

By fostering peace, security, and stability, CICA lays the foundation for a harmonious and prosperous future where all nations coexist peacefully, their people live in peace, freedom, and prosperity, and the region becomes a global peace and cooperation model.

 

*The writer is Editor in Chief, The Diplomatic Insight 

 

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