Rise of Eurasianism through institutions: the CICA as the OSCE of Eurasia

06/11/2010 12:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Leaders from about 40 countries across Eurasia and the Middle East including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich. gathered in Istanbul this week (June 6-9) for a Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit hosted by Turkey.

With Turkish-Israeli relations in serious test in the wake of the Gaza flotilla crisis, and accelerated discussion over the meaning of Turkey's "no" vote at the UN Security Council (on whether it represents a shift in foreign policy direction or just a new episode of regional peace efforts) on new round of sanctions against Iran, the war in Afghanistan and instability in Iraq intensifying, reset policy with Russia delivering mixed signals, while the West and the United States trying to figure out right policies and actions over above-like geopolitical challenges, countries in Eurasia are trying to find their own way to security, prosperity and stability through new forums/institutions such as CICA.

The CICA is an inter-governmental security forum in Asia which was proposed in 1992 by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly. After a decade of intense diplomacy, in 2002 Kazakhstan hosted the first ever CICA summit with 16 other countries. Second summit was held in 2008 with 18 members again in Kazakhstan.

The fledgling forum's main purpose of bringing peace to all, including bringing together seemingly irreconcilable countries and interests, - it unites India and Pakistan, Iran, Palestine and Israel, among others. Today, it is the only forum covering the entire Asian continent. Its 22 member states representing nearly ninety percent of the area and population of Asia. Its reach extends from Turkey in the west to the Republic of Korea in the east.

Current members are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People's Republic of China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, South Korea, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. Number of member states increased from original 16 to 22 after admission of Iraq and Vietnam (both from observer status) during the third summit in Istanbul. Observer countries and organizations include: Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Qatar, Ukraine, USA; United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and League of Arab States.

What CICA stands for?

During the first CICA summit held in 2002 members adopted Almaty Act as its one of the basic documents. The Declaration confirmed their determination to respect and put into practice in their relations with each other, irrespective of their political, economic or social systems as well as of their size, geographical location and level of economic development, the following principles of fundamental significance:

1. Sovereign equality, respect for rights inherent in sovereignty
2. Refraining from the threat or use of force.
3. Territorial integrity of the Member States.
4. Peaceful settlement of disputes.
5. Non-intervention in internal affairs.
6. Economic, social and cultural cooperation
7. Human rights and fundamental freedoms

The CICA process presents new opportunities for cooperation, peace and security in Asia which has not been seen so far and has the potential to guide members towards a better future, which their peoples deserve. All member states declared their "determination to form in Asia a common and indivisible area of security, where all states peacefully coexist, and their peoples live in conditions of peace, freedom and prosperity, and confident that peace, security and development complement, sustain and reinforce each other." in the Almaty Act.

The CICA is a unique platform that has become a functioning body effectively dealing with a variety of security issues of common interest. CICA's main objective is to move towards a unified Asian collective security structure on a step by step basis. The CICA aims to achieve this through implementing confidence building measures (CBMs) mainly in three baskets: 1) CBMs in military-political dimension 2) the fight against new challenges and threats including terrorism, drug trafficking, trans-national crime, and human trafficking; 3) In economic, environmental and human dimensions. The CICA founders recognized the response to common security challenges should be collaborative and multilateral. The CICA decided to adopt a consensus-based approach. The CICA member states also came to understand that the existing discords in the region could not be an obstacle to finding common approaches to common problems.

The CICA has provided very timely opportunity for the Asian nations to address modern challenges to the international peace and stability and set out the vision to tackle them. As UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon said during the third Meeting of CICA Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Almaty on August 25, 2008 that the "emergence of CICA has paralleled the dynamic development of Asia." Along with security and economy OSCE like emphasis on human rights and universal values are taking ground for the first time in an international forum. Miroslav Jenca, Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia, warned during the same second summit that "the promise of development and the advancement of universal human values can be undermined by war and conflict."

Turkish Chairmanship and transformation of the CICA

During this week's summit Kazakhstan handed over the CICA presidency to Turkey. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed belief Tuesday that Turkey --as term president of CICA-- would exert efforts to improve the whole security concept in Asia through extended dialogue which drives recent activism in Turkish foreign policy recently. After Kazakhstan serving as a bridge between east Asian countries such as South Korea, China and Vietnam and Central Asia, Turkey as historical bridge between East and West will transform the forum towards more active venue for dialogue and understanding to pave the way for institutionalization of continental security and elements/principles of stability.

Last week's summit is very important historical event, because this year Kazakhstan chairs the OSCE and chaired the CICA till the Summit. Interaction between the two organizations could not have been symbolized in a better way.

The theme of the Turkish CICA Chairmanship will be "Enhanced Political and Security Dialogue in Asia: Key to Elaborating Cooperative Approaches to Security". The theme is the articulation of the idea of "Non-Zero-Sum Game" tools and models of cooperation in Eurasia which are for many geopolitical reasons could not be articulated so far.

In the joint declaration issued at the end of their summit in Istanbul, Turkey on June 9, leaders from the CICA members agreed that they will work together to fight the proliferation of nuclear weapons, combat terrorism, and tackle catastrophes caused by climate change, including rising sea levels, natural calamities and diseases. They will also boost economic co-operation (The participants approved the Action Plan and Concept on Cooperation in the sphere of IT, multilateral cooperation in the small and medium size enterprise sector and tourism.) and cultural exchanges for development and peace in Asia.

From OSCE to CICA: Mutually reinforcing synergy

Things do not always go smoothly in Asia since Asia is the most diverse continent ethnically and culturally. There are religious, political and economic differences to overcome. In addition, Asia continues to face multiple flash points with significant conflict potentials that have been in existence for historical and other reasons. In these circumstances, it would be unrealisticl to expect from the CICA to make drastic changes forward. However, The forum's value is in its ability to offer a platform for its every member's concerns to be heard and considered. This quality allows the CICA to find a way and move forward.

While the CICA was not proposed and developed as an OSCE for Eurasia, there are obvious similarities and connections between the two institutions. It is only natural that the same universal values and needs such as security, stability, prosperity and human dignity/rights would lead to similar organizational paths. Both processes share these fundamental objectives in their respective regions. Principles guiding relations between member states of the two bodies have striking similarities. The CICA Almaty Act of 2002, like the OSCE Helsinki Act, is a political document and not a treaty. In both structures, decisions are taken by consensus and implemented on a voluntary basis. Seven CICA member states are also members of the OSCE, many others happen to be the latter's partners for cooperation. Closer interaction will be beneficial for both the CICA and the OSCE. The OSCE's rich experience in implementing CBMs is valuable for the CICA.As the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said while speaking at this week's summit "Cooperation and interaction between the CICA and OSCE should be transformed into a continental security platform."

During the short period since its inception, the CICA has made big strides in its endeavor to find ways and means to eliminate the causes of mistrust, tension and hostility and create conditions for economic prosperity and sustainable peace in Eurasia. Kazakhstan's OSCE Chairmanship in 2010 and Turkey's term presidency of the CICA will add new dynamism and produce practical sustainable results that are beneficial for entire Eurasia, the relationship between the CICA and the OSCE, and, therefore, for both the East and the West.

Some useful links and news entries used for this article:
- http://www.s-cica.org/index.html
- http://www.cicaistanbul.org/pages/about_cica_page.html
- Kazakhstan hands over CICA presidency to Turkey, 08 June 2010 http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=59663
- HTTP://IN.REUTERS.COM/ARTICLE/IDININDIA-49137020100608
- http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-06/08/c_13340329.htm