In the fast changing world of 21st century, Asia occupies a unique place. Asia has been showing remarkable economic growth and is bringing new innovations, which were exclusive preserve of west during last few centuries. West has grudgingly accepted that this will be the Asian Century. With its rising military, economic and political clout, Asia is playing an increasingly important role in the world community. For these reasons as well as on account of changing demography, center of gravity of global power is moving towards Asia.
At the same time, Asia continues to face numerous security challenges which threaten not only the economic gains but also the peace and stability of the continent. Asia has experienced some of the most disastrous conflicts of the post second world war era. It is an extremely diverse region having some of the largest and the smallest countries with significantly different levels of development and aspirations. There are also cultural, ethnic, religious and historical differences to overcome. As a result, Asia is facing multiple flash points with significant conflict potentials that have been in existence for historical and other reasons. Any of these flashpoints could spark conflagration that could undermine the peace and prosperity of the region.
In addition to the traditional military flashpoints, Asia also faces a number of non-traditional security challenges like terrorism, trans-national crime, environmental degradation, spread of infectious diseases and trafficking in human beings, illicit drugs and arms. While globalisation has brought unprecedented benefits in the form of rapid economic, technological and social changes, these changes have also spawned the sinister by-product of non-traditional security challenges.
Globalisation has also been blamed for increasing economic and social inequalities and consequent tensions in certain parts of Asia. In spite of decades of positive macroeconomic development, nearly 900 million people in Asia continue to live on income under $ 1 a day. While poverty itself cannot be identified as a security challenge, it has certainly contributed to the rise of some of the new threats and challenges.
Most of the non-traditional challenges have trans-national linkages aided by the ease of communications and transportation. Increasingly wired and connected world has enabled collaboration not only among the companies and communities but also among the terrorist and criminal groups. New challenges like terrorism, international crime, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings are prospering on account of trans-national linkages. It is, therefore, becoming increasingly clear that both traditional and non-traditional security challenges cannot be addressed in isolation and require collaborative multilateral responses for their resolution.
It was to address these very concerns by a collaborative multilateral approach that President Nursultan Nazarbaev of newly independent Kazakhstan conceived the idea of Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and presented it to the community of nations in his maiden address at the UN General Assembly in 1992. That was the time when profound changes were taking place in the world with collapse of Soviet Union and emergence of newly independent states in Eurasia. The moving spirit behind this initiative was to re-start the previously abortive efforts to create an efficacious security structure in Asia.
The concept found wide acceptance across Asia and CICA became a functioning forum in September 1999 when foreign ministers from 15 Asian States, including India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey adopted Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations Between CICA Member States. An interesting feature was that CICA became the only multilateral structure where Israel and Palestine were admitted as equal members. At the first summit meeting in June 2002, the charter of CICA – Almaty Act was adopted. In twenty years, membership of CICA has risen from 15 to 27 covering all the sub-regions of Asia.
CICA is among the most ambitious groupings, especially in terms of the range of issues it seeks to address and its heterogeneity infuses it with potential dynamism. The fact that CICA is in a position to reconcile the diverse concerns is reflected in its ability to adopt a comprehensive set of documents and declarations and its ability to take tangible steps for implementation of confidence building measures (CBMs).
CICA takes holistic view of the security environment. Ethno-religious, socio-economic and environmental factors have great impact on security and stability in the region. CICA is addressing these factors through implementation of CBMs in human, economic and environmental dimensions in addition to military-political dimension and new threats and challenges.
In the context of ethno-religious issues, CBMs in human dimension are of particular interest. CICA has consistently worked on issues for promoting religious harmony, dialogue among civilisations and ethnic groups and building understanding of different cultures among the peoples of the member states.
CBMs in socio-economic dimension are aimed at reducing economic disparities and raising the living standards of the people which will help in removing some of the causes that contribute to the rise of non-traditional security challenges. Simultaneously, confidence building measures in meeting new threats and challenges, which include terrorism, drug trafficking, trans-national crimes, trafficking in human beings, and like, will directly address these issues.
In order to accomplish the ultimate goal of making Asia a region of peace and security, it is necessary that there should be active cooperation among all Asian regional and sub-regional organizations and fora. With this in view, CICA has reached out to other organizations and fora and established of institutional level relationships with ASEAN, ECO, ACD, SCO and OIC.
CICA has the potential to be analogue of OSCE in Asia in due course of time.