The Istanbul CICA Summit


Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra – TRANSCEND Media Service

The 20-member Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA, now 22 with the admission of Iraq and Vietnam) met in the Turkish city of Istanbul on 8th and 9th of June 2010. Though the summit was overwhelmed by the incident in the Mediterranean Sea reflecting the conflict in the Middle East, the broader agenda of the summit as outlined in its Principle of Guidelines too came into focus during the summit. The Principles Guiding Relations laid out in 1999 committed the members, “to achieve full, just and lasting relations of peace, openness, mutual trust, security, stability and cooperation in Asia.” The organization found in 1992 during the initial days of the post-cold war has evoked optimism among member states as the deliberations during the third summit reflected. However, like any regional organizations with having diverse pulls and pressures the CICA has perhaps to go a long way to emerge as an effective coherent body in the landscape of Eurasia.

The third summit that took place in the background of the recent flare in Middle East was attended by many prominent leaders. The leaders minced no words while elevating the objectives of the organization as ‘establishing peace and order’ in the Eurasian region which has been afflicted by the problems of ‘terrorism, drug trafficking and narcotics.’ The location of the third summit in Turkey in contrast to the first two summits in Kazakhstan, one of the founder members of the initiative, too added to the crucial importance of the summit. Turkey which is a member of US led NATO, and which has played a crucial role in furthering the US objectives in the region, took over the chairmanship of the initiative. This development acquired a newer dimension as the Turkish President Abdullah Gul announced, “we should build a joint understanding through which we can work together to live in peace, stability and welfare, ensuring the happiness of our people.”

There are many issues convergence emerged clearly from the deliberations in the summit. Foremost among them is the issue towards building the war-torn Afghanistan. The increasing realization that has gained ground is the US has not been capable enough to rein in the Taliban menace in Afghanistan. Its presence in the region for the last one decade has not resulted in decisive victory for the lovers of peace and stability in the region. The region needs a regional solution. As reflected in the January 2010 London Afghanistan conference, without the active participation of the regional players the stalemate in Afghanistan will likely continue for an indefinite period. As the Russian Prime Minister emphasized in his speech that “instability comes from the situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where international terrorist organizations found refuge, receiving vast financial support, including money from drug trade.” He also rightly emphasized that drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan has grown from an inter-regional problem into the global threat. Reportedly, drug trafficking from Afghanistan has caused about one million deaths worldwide. Hence, it appears crucial in this background how far the CICA members coordinate with each other towards evolving a common approach for the solution of the Afghan conundrum. Besides Russia, there are many other regional players like India, China and Pakistan who are also the members of the CICA initiative, who can work together to devise a regional agenda towards addressing the Afghan issue.

Equally importantly the summit emphasized on cooperation in the Eurasian space. In the emerging world order in which multipolarism has become the mainstay, the members of CICA need to play an effective role towards building cooperative security architecture in the region. Already organizations like Sanghai Cooperation Organization has been playing a dynamic role in reshaping the security discourse in the Central Eurasian region. Besides security, the countries possess enormous potentials for cooperation among member states. As the whole Eurasian region is traditionally linked through traditional route networks and other linkages, it becomes possible to develop common areas of interest in trade and commerce. One of the most important in this direction is the prospects of cooperation in the field of energy security. Pipelines can play an important role towards Eurasian integration. These ventures will also play major role in building trust among the members. In this context, the initiative of CICA members Russia, Kazakhstan and Thailand towards building a road map for ‘supporting business initiatives and encouraging information exchange between entrepreneurs’ needs worth mention.

Most of the members took a common approach that any solution whether to the Israel-Palestine or the Iranian nuclear issue or the North Korean issue must be by peaceful means through dialogue. The members took a critical stand over the recent violent incident in the Mediterranean Sea in which a ship containing aid workers from about 30 countries was allegedly targeted by the Israeli defence forces. The development has affected the Turkish-Israeli relations. The Israeli delegate opposed the inclusion of the issue in any joint statement. However, the members remained almost unequivocal that violence must end in the Middle East for peace to have any chance.

Whether CICA can be termed ‘OSCE of Asia’ it is not much difficult to answer. Also whether there is a need for a comparison between the two is an altogether different issue of concern. However, at the present stage, CICA members need to work in tandem towards playing an active role in the Eurasian space towards building peace and stability. Issues like ‘extremism, terrorism, drug trafficking, the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and maritime piracy’ will likely goad CICA members to play a collective role in tackling these issues of common concern.


Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is currently part of the research faculty at the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai, India. He specializes on issues of conflict, peace and development, terrorism and strategic aspects of Central Eurasia.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Jun 2010.

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