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What can Turkey get out of CICA?

HDN | 6/9/2010 12:00:00 AM | GÜLAY KILIÇ

CICA provides a unique platform by offering equal opportunities to its members to discuss a broad range of confidence-building measures.

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, or CICA, is an Asian forum that includes 90 percent of the Asian continent and enables cooperation toward promoting peace, security and stability in the region. The most significant aspect of CICA is that it highlights confidence-building measures, not necessarily hard-core security issues at first. For example, it envisages security on trade routes and or energy transmission lines in Asia as confidence-building measures.

Here is the idea that it gradually builds confidence among actors which are expected to open up themselves and grasp urgency to resolve hard security problems thereafter. This is this reason that CICA includes five confidence-building dimensions: the economic dimension, the environmental dimension, the human dimension, fighting against new challenges and threats, as well as the military-political dimension.

CICA currently has a sluggish structure because it has twenty members, some of whom have deep political problems with each other. Pakistan-India relations, Iran-Israel relations, and Palestinian issues are just among many of these kinds of problems.

Today it is really difficult to hold these members together, and that is why CICA avoids discussing some political problems in detail. Indeed, many international organizations have the same problem, and their members sometimes limit themselves to save the organization. So, it is true that there are plenty of problems in the world and no one organization is capable of solving them all.

[HH] Why is CICA needed?

In Asia, CICA is different from some other regional organizations in terms of using soft power as the default instead of hard military power.

For instance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, led by Russia, intends to provide security using hard military power. Also, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, is mainly perceived as an anti-American security organization. However, until CICA was established in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Asia did not have any inter-state formation like the Organization for Security and Cooperation, or OSCE, in Europe.

In fact there are similarities and even connections between the OSCE and CICA. This is understandable due to the fact that Asia contains countries which have so many diverse economic, political, cultural and geographical characteristics. Both organizations have similar aims, in terms of developing economic, cultural and social interactions among members, however while the OSCE covers all of Europe and part of Asia in the Caucasus and Central Asia, CICA, though including many countries and a large population in Asia does not include all states as its members. Also CICA is not as well organized or structured as the OSCE.

Nevertheless CICA provides a unique platform by offering equal opportunities to its members to discuss a broad range of confidence-building measures which largely fall into the interests of all parties.

[HH] Turkish foreign policy and CICA

The third CICA Summit is being held in Istanbul on June 8 and 9. With the summit, Turkey has taken over the chairmanship of CICA for two years. Indeed the CICA chairmanship fits very well into Turkey’s much lauded foreign strategy of “zero problems with neighbors.”

Turkish foreign policy has stressed the existence as well as the importance of an “alliance of civilizations” and urged that diplomacy and dialogue are of great value to resolve inter-state and many other problems in the international arena. In Turkish foreign policy, another important point that appears to have become settled since the war in South Ossetia in August 2008 is that interdependence between states would repel the likelihood of a war between states. The Turkish foreign policy concept of “zero problems with neighbors” is actually based on this very idea of mutual interdependence.

So, Turkey’s and Brazil’s initiative of an Iranian nuclear exchange deal is in fact reflecting the very ideas of Turkish foreign policy. Though it is unfortunate now Turkey and Israel are having a big row over the Israeli military raid on aid ships in the open seas in the Mediterranean, Ankara has assumed the some kind of policy in the Middle East, particularly on the Palestinian issue, between conflicting sides.

Thus, regardless of the latest developments on the Turkish-Israeli front, CICA can provide opportunities for Turkey to build confidence in Asia, perhaps including the Middle East in the long run. It is because CICA, despite its still immature structure, has every reason to become an influential organization with its challenging subjects and the will of rising powers such as China, Russia and India.

Accordingly, what Turkey can and should do in the next two years of the chairmanship of CICA is to take steps that can make CICA a much more mature entity in Asia. As the continent contains very difficult problems to be resolved Turkey can suggest and press further on the interactions among states in the areas of diplomacy, economic forums, academic and student exchange programs and so on.

These activities open new doors through which members of CICA can know and be closely acquainted with each other. Surely all these will supply security control among conflicting parties and across the Asian continent from the Middle East to the Great Wall of China. This then means more security not only for Asia but also the entire world.

 * Gülay Kılıç is an expert for the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK.

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