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May 09 2016
Exploring the Next Stage of CICA’s Future Developments
By Yang Jiemian

The Working Report by the Task Force on the CICA and Its Future Developments at the Fifth International Roundtable on the CICA and Asian Security in Shanghai on April 22-23, 2016

Rapporteur: Jiemian YANG

(Task Force Members: Sohail AMIN, Aidar AMREBAYEV, Ahmad bin Abu HassanGHAZALI, Hossam IBRAHIM, Srikanth KONDAPALLI, Fedor LUKYANOV, Jiemian YANG)

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) has been a forum for dialogues and consultations on regional security issues in Asia since its founding in 1992. Itsmain objective and purpose is to promote peace, security and stability in Asiathrough multilateral confidence-building and concerted cooperation.To cope with the increasingly complicated security environments and changing social-economic foundations, the CICA needs to further define its roles and enhance its mechanisms.


In recent years, Asia’ssecurity environmenthasbecome increasingly complicated and intricate. In traditional security field, militarytensionsin some parts of Asia such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Korean Peninsula continue tostand out. Meanwhile, some non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, extremism, pandemic diseases, massive refugees, drug trafficking and water/food safety have kept escalating. In the wake of the U.S. Strategy of Rebalancing in Asian Pacific region, there have been a realignment of major players such as the United States, China, Japan, India, ASEAN and Australia. As a result, the security situation of the South China Sea has caught the attention not only of the region but also ofthe world.

Complicate and pressing security in Asia as such calls fora fitting and competent regional architecture to effectively address the problems and challenges and to make long-term planning for a more secure future. However, due to lack of consensus within the region, Asia does not have apan-Asian security mechanism. The existent security mechanisms are insufficient to shoulder the tremendous burden of both traditional and non-traditional challenges confronting the Asian continent. The U.S.-led alliance system is incapable of dealing with certain non-traditional security threats and is reflective of the Cold-War mindset. The ASEAN Regional Forum has transformed into a forum for dialogue and has been unable so far to enforce any of its recommendations. The Six-Party Talk on the Korean Peninsula has also become a non-starter.Some multilateral security mechanisms relating to Afghanistan and Syria are very much issue oriented. Furthermore, the absence of regional security mechanism is symptomatic ofthecognitive differences among the Asian countries as well as between some Asian countries and the United States. It is therefore, natural for the Asian countries to perceive and plan about various regional security issues differently.Lack of consensus among major Asian countriesand also with the United States has resulted in divergent,inconsistentand even conflictingstrategies and approaches to address regional and sub-regional security issues. Such an environmentwill not only lead towaste of resources in building overlappingfunctionsbut also create new grounds for competition among regional countries.

Therefore, for Asian countries, it has become an urgent requirementto build a new security institutionwhich should be more representative and inclusive in natureso as to accommodate and coordinate various sub-regional security mechanisms.

Conditions and Difficulties

As the only pan-Asian security forum, the CICA has the unique advantagein terms ofinclusiveness and representativeness. Therefore,its core security ideas can best reflect and guidefuture developmentswith regard to Asian security.

Firstly, withaccumulated efforts through precedents set by states chairing CICA Summits,the CICA has developed intothe most inclusive multilateral security platform in Asia. As of March 2016, the CICA has 26 members and 11 observers (states and international organizations combined).During the course of its expansion,the CICA basically sets no threshold for member’s accession. Conversely, it has spared no effortsto invite as many Asian countries to be member statesas possible, and has alsoinvited countries outside the region yet deeply involved in regional affairs to participate as observers. As such, the high level of inclusiveness andrepresentativenesshas made the CICA not only a pan-Asian security mechanism, but also an embodiment of Asia’s complicated security environmentsper se, which lends the unique advantage toCICAto deal withor mediateinalmost allthe serioussecurity issues confrontingAsia.

Secondly, many of the CICAmember states are both willing and able to build an Asian security cooperation organization to meet regional securitydemands. They include not only major countries such as China, Russia and India, but also a host of middle powers and regional powers capable of playing an active role in regional issues, such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Iran, Pakistan and South Korea, etc. In the past decades, manyCICA member states have experienced rapid economic development andremarkable capacitybuildup, which also explains why many member states are willing to shoulder more responsibilities to promoteregional peace and stability.With the shared security interests as its solid foundation, the CICA has a great potential to deepen cooperation among Asian countries thus further enhancing its roles in regional security cooperation.

Thirdly, the CICA has already built up some institutional foundation in the past decades, which gives way tofurther incremental upgrading. After more than 20 years of developments, particularly in the past decade, the CICA has established such mechanisms as summit meeting for heads of state and government, meeting for ministers of foreign affairs, senior officials’ committee and special working group as well. At the same time, it has formulatedsome basic documents with respect to its mission, vision, operational principles and structure.The CICA hasalso signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with various regional and international organizations, among others, the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc)and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Whilethere are many reasons for the development and upgradingof the CICA,the Asiancountries are also encountering the following difficulties and challenges.

Firstly, Asian countries still lack a common “Asian awareness” or a common Asian identity. Asia’s security environmentsarevery complicated and sensitivein nature. Almost all the security issueshaving a global significancecan be found in Asia. While European countries share similar cultural and religious origin, Asia is more of a geographical concept. In such a vast landwith striking distinctions and immense diversities in terms ofgeographical conditions, ethnic composition, religious beliefs, and ideologies as well astheirhistorical development, the difficultiesin evolvinga common recognitionof Asian entitywill be tremendous, let alone the acceptanceof a shared community of Asia.

Secondly, whilethe 21st century has witnessedthe evolutionofaU.S.-led alliance system in the Asia-Pacific,the formation ofa broader Asian security structureis nowhere in sight.The increasingly obvious dual structure in the field of Asian security has seriously affected CICA’s future developments. In a sense, the dual structureis an aberrant continuation of the old order of land-sea separation,reminiscent of theCold War period.Though Asia’s security situation in recent yearshas been worsening, the dual structure somehowhas beenfurther consolidating instead of being the other way around. How to cope with the dual structure constitutes the major challenge in the course of CICA’s developments.

As already stated, Asia’suniquesecurity environmentdemands a moreinclusive and active CICA, and the CICA also needs more sound and effective institutions to maximize its role in Asia’s security system.

Ways Ahead

In the past two dozens of years, the CICA has developed into the most representative and inclusive pan-Asian institution in regional security field.To live up to the expectations of the CICA members, Chinaas the rotating chair has stepped up its efforts to revitalize the CICA by fulfilling many of its commitments made at the summit, including organizing the first annual CICA non-governmental forum in May in Beijing and the first Conference of the CICA Youth Council in August 2015in Beijing. All these activities are conducive to the promotion of CICA’s publicity and recognition both within and outside the Asian continent.However, CICA’s overall influence on Asia’s security agenda is stilllimited. There is yeta long way to go in meeting the set-goals of the CICA.

Firstly,Asia needs to have a common “sense ofshared destiny” in addition to Asian awareness and identity. The CICA should identify and create this common “sense ofshared destiny” that could bind member states together.Economic prosperity, stable regional environments, etc. arepossible elements that could be the common binding factors.The effort to create this “sense of shared destiny” must bedeliberated and accompanied by a detailed roadmapacceptable to all member states.

Secondly, the CICA should strengthen its capacity and institutional structure. In this regard,the CICA still has many deficiencies and shortcomings. CICA’s Secretariat and other existing administrative bodies should be made financially stable and staffed with adequate personnel. The Secretariat should also be given the mandate to monitor the implementation of CBMs.The CICA should also try to increase the frequency of working and expert meetings, and set up more high-level meetings, such as meetingsof Defense Ministers, Ministers of Public Security and other senior officials concerning issues related todomestic or international security. To promote member states’ participation and CICA’scapacity in addressing and resolving Asia’s security issues, italso needs to make good use of various institutional arrangements to establish a network at multiple levels and fields.The establishment of regional chapters or pillars is also worthy serious consideration.To betteraddress regional risks, the CICA may also need to buildcrisis management and emergency responsemechanisms.

Thirdly, in the course of promoting itsdevelopments and upgrading,the CICA should not only pay attention to major countries’ roles and responsibilities, but also make fulluse of small and medium sized countries’vision and innovation.The CICAshould besuch an international mechanism which isconducive to optimizing the comparative advantages of small and medium sized countries. They have their own visions and strengths tosupplement major countries’ efforts in enhancing CICA’s influence. It is therefore important to develop divergent views into integratedvisions which will create synergy and further strengthen CICA’s framework.

Fourthly, all the CICA member statesneed to further clarify the goals and objectives of CICA’s developments, and to cultivate the common “Asian awareness” in regional security field. Although there is no consensus among the member states on whether to move towards an entity similar with the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), it is high time that this kind of option be explored on both first and second track dialogues. This Roundtable would take it as our future research project and send the research outcomes to the CICA and the governments concerned.

Last but not theleast,think tanks can play avery important role during the process of development and upgradation of CICA. CICA member states’ think tanks have a deeper understanding of CICA’s missions and responsibilities, andthey should try to contribute more valuable ideas and research products aimed at enhancing Asia’s peace and prosperity. In the meantime, the think tanks of CICA member states should seek to have greater interaction with other kinds of think tanks with a view to promoting peace and development in the world. Therefore, we call for closer cooperation between the CICA and the think tanks in general and the CICA Secretariat and this Roundtable in particular.□