One of the significant political events of this year will undoubtedly be the Fifth Summit of Heads of State of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which will commence tomorrow (June 15) in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. President Maithripala Sirisena is among the Heads of States scheduled to address the First Session at the Navruz Palace in the Tajik capital.
The CICA is an international forum to strengthen cooperation, established to ensure peace, security and stability in Asia. CICA is a very young organisation, set up in 1992. Its first summit was in 2002. CICA is the only multilateral security mechanism that covers almost all of Asia. To date, there are 27 member countries, including China, India, Russia Kazakhstan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Israel.
Sri Lanka became the 26th member of CICA in 2018, when Colombo’s application was unanimously accepted by CICA. At a ceremony held in Beijing, China on August 15, last year, Sri Lankan Ambassador to China Dr. Karunasena Kodithuwakku signed the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations among the CICA Member States and the Almaty Act, the two mandatory documents that a new Member State is required to sign to obtain full membership of this multi-national forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia, with main focus on confidence building measures.
CICA Member States
In 2012, Sri Lanka obtained the Observer State of the CICA and now the full membership would further enhance Sri Lanka’s bilateral, economic and trade cooperation as well as people to people contacts with other CICA Member States. CICA is different from other security mechanisms which are commonly dominated by super powers. It has the characteristics of an “Asian initiative,” which values equality among members, and is led by small countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is a strong advocate of the forum. At the 2014 summit, he proposed what he called the “New Asia Security Concept.” The idea is to establish “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia.” Under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, China aims to promote cooperation in trade and economy.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi too will be in Dushanbe to attend CICA and he is also expected to hold bilateral discussions with President Xi.
At the Dushnabe Summit, CICA leaders will examine ways and means of strengthening economic ties and step up trade and investment. The CICA Summit gives the member countries an opportunity to promote regional exchanges to address both security demands and economic ties.
The Member States of the CICA include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. CICA membership covers about 90 percent of the territory and population of Asia. It has another 8 states and 5 international organisations, including the UN, with observer status.
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the inception, “The second aspect on which I would like to dwell is the problem of peace and security on our continent – Asia, or even wider – Eurasia. We are talking about the initiative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to hold the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
The idea of creating on the continent structures of security and cooperation in Asia in the style of the same structures in Europe has long been in the air, but has not yet received wide support.” It should be noted that already in this first speech on the CICA, the Kazakh president clearly outlined his vision of the phased creation of an OSCE counterpart in Asia. This plan was implemented thanks to the tremendous work carried out by the diplomatic corps of Kazakhstan under the leadership of Nazarbayev, with the help of other countries of the continent who are more interested in this project.
Peace, security and economic development
Currently, the CICA, whose secretariat is located in Kazakhstan, seeks to strengthen contacts and ties with the UN, regional and international organisations to support its efforts to strengthen peace, security and economic development in Asia. Within the framework of the Meeting, there is a special document – the Catalog of Confidence Building Measures, which contains a list of confidence building measures in five main dimensions: economic, environmental, humanitarian, combating new challenges and threats, and military-political. In general, work has begun on all five dimensions.
By this time, many Asian leaders already had an understanding of the need to reformat CICA activities, which successfully functioned as an international forum and dialogue platform. CICA filled the need for an organisation that will be able to deal with urgent intergovernmental problems, primarily economic cooperation and the resolution of existing conflicts.
The theme of the Summit this year “Shared Vision for a Secured and More Prosperous CICA Region” is very appropriate to guide the participants towards establishing a secure and peaceful CICA Region. Top leaders and officials from 20 countries attend the Dushnabe Summit. Taking into account the previous developments and the high level of participation of the CICA member states, it can be expected that the Summit will be able to give new impetus to the further promotion of confidence building measures, will be an effective platform for discussing the most pressing issues of concern to all members of the CICA.
CICA Summit would provide a platform for President Sirisena to emphasize the imperative need for the CICA members to understand the situation and extend support to Sri Lanka and her people to face new challenges arising from violent extremism.
Sri Lanka will assure its interaction with CICA in all dimensions, especially building comprehensive and sustainable security environment based on the commitments of mutual respect, confidence and cooperation.