Presidents pose for a picture during the 16-nation Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, in Almaty, June 4, 2002. From left: Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of People's Republic of China Jiang Zemin, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf , Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev.
During their summit in Kazakhstan's city of Almaty on June 4, 2002 the heads of state and government of 16 Asian nations, declaring their support for peaceful resolution of disputes and the common fight against terrorism, established a new Asian security organization stretching from Egypt to China, an organization that has never existed in the past.
The first summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (or CICA), the idea of which was proposed by Kazakhstan at the end of the Cold War and at the time of shifting geopolitics, provided a timely opportunity for the Asian nations to address modern challenges to the international peace and stability and set out the vision to tackle them.
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, - was immediately put to a real life test.
The gathering, taking place amid heightened tensions in South Asia and elsewhere, provided a unique occasion for leaders of India and Pakistan to sit in the same room and to hear each other speak directly for the first time in five months.
"Military conflicts on our continent can lead to dozens of millions of people being killed," he said. "We are all concerned with the conflict between India and Pakistan. We call upon our neighbors to find peaceful solution to the problem," President Nazarbayev said, adding, "the solution to the Middle East issue is also important for the region." No direct one-on-one meeting between the two South Asian leaders could be arranged. According to numerous accounts, however, the very fact of consistent active international efforts and these leaders' attendance at a confidence-building meeting, might serve to decreasing tensions in the subcontinent.
During the daily briefing on June 5 White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "progress is going to be measured day by day. In a tense situation, lack of war is the goal. Reduction of tension is the goal. And while it remains tense, it remains delicate. War is not inevitable."
The current Indian-Pakistani dispute, drawing the spotlight of the world's attention to Almaty, provided the background for laying the foundations for the first security organization in Asia.
The 16 nations signed the Almaty Act, establishing the CICA and pledging to work "towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia."
The Act was signed by Chairman of the Administration of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, President of China Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister of India Atal Behari Vajpayee, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev, President of Mongolia Natsagiin Bagabandi, President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of Turkey Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and President of Tajikistan Imomali Rakhmonov. Signatories from other CICA members included the prime ministers of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, a deputy prime minister of Israel, as well as special high-level envoys from Egypt, Iran, and the Palestine Authority.
Ten more nations, including the United States, have observer status in the new forum, as do a number of international organizations, such as the UN, the OSCE and the Arab League.
The CICA summit was convened at the initiative of President Nazarbayev, first proposed at the UN General Assembly in 1992. The summit builds on the results of a decade-long effort of experts and foreign ministers of the member states who in 1999 adopted the Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations among the CICA states.
"This forum is crucial not only as a platform for discussing pressing political problems, but also in terms of necessary guarantees for ensuring the sustainable economic growth of our nations," President Nazarbayev said in his remarks at the summit.
He acknowledged "extremely difficult tasks" of creating such a group, saying that Asia is "not homogenous both politically and economically" meaning "we will encounter more complex hurdles than in Europe."
"The signing of the Almaty Act does not mean that by tomorrow we will get an OSCE-type structure," he said. "I can foresee a great amount of political and diplomatic vigorous work on bringing together the long term and often conflicting interests of Asian nations. But this Act opens the way for concrete consultations and negotiations."
Other speakers supported this view and called for dialogue.
"The continent of Asia is a cradle of diverse civilizations, cultures, religions and traditions. Confidence-building, understanding and peace in Asia can transform the world," Pakistani President Musharraf said in his address to the Conference.
"CICA has to evolve certain reliable ground rules that would promote peace and security in Asia, by reconciling the diverse concerns and interests of the countries of the continent."
In the final Almaty Act, the 16 leaders said that the CICA process presents "new opportunities for cooperation, peace and security in Asia" and "will guide us towards a better future, which our peoples deserve." They 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."
The leaders agreed to hold summits every four years, while the foreign ministers are to meet every two years. There are also provisions allowing for special meetings and summits to be convened at the consensus at other times. The committee of senior officials will keep up the organizational work and will meet annually.
"We underline that terrorism cannot be attributed to religion, nationality, or civilization," the leaders said. "We consider as one of the primary tasks of the international community to strengthen efforts to eliminate poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, extremism, intolerance, entrenched hatred and all forms of discrimination."
"We consider CICA as a unique Asian forum which comprises states of different cultures and traditions making it one of the most important mechanisms to promote dialogue among civilizations and cultures," the leaders declared.
The Asian nations said they intended "to comprehensively and actively promote such a dialogue (among civilizations) taking into account that Eurasia has not only been a cradle of some of the world's largest civilizations but has also served as a bridge between them."
News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
(Compiled from own sources and various agencies' reports)
Contact person: Roman Vassilenko
Tel.: (202) 232- 5488 ext. 104
Fax: (202) 232- 5845
The meeting also became a venue for intensive international mediation in Indian-Pakistani relations, with presidents of Kazakhstan, Russia and China aiming to avert the collision through statements and bilateral talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
"We call upon all the participants of the CICA to demonstrate restraint and responsibility in relations with each other in order to avoid large conflicts and the escalation of tensions in Asia," President Nazarbayev said in his address to the Conference participants.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, left, and President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, review the honor guard during a welcome ceremony outside the presidential palace in the city of Almaty, June 3, 2002.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, right, greets Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in his residence in Almaty, June 3, 2002.
"This objective should define the CICA undertaking and our common efforts to promote it," he said. "We, therefore, welcome the principles and the mechanism elaborated in the Almaty Act. We believe that this mechanism supplements and reinforces the commitment of the member states to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter."
"Religious, cultural and civilizational diversity need not divide us. Rather, it can become a powerful basis for unity if we adhere to the principle of tolerance and equal respect for all faiths and cultural traditions," Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said.