24 October 2004
Asian conference approves CBMs
By Siddharth Varadarajan
ALMATY, OCT. 23. Sixteen Asian countries — including India — took a significant step towards cementing strategic ties with each other by committing themselves to a number of confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the military, political, economic and cultural spheres.
The catalogue of CBMs adopted by the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) here on October 22 is far-ranging but Indian officials said the process under way should not be thought of as one only focusing on security issues.
"We are not looking here at an Asian model of the Organisation of Securityand Cooperation in Europe," said a senior official, "but one which has anequal focus on socio-economic and cultural priorities. We don't think the OSCE, with its excessive focus on military CBMs, is something which is appropriate for Asia."
`Shift towards Asia'
In his speech at the CICA meet, the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, noted that "since the early Nineties there has been a steady shift in power and influence to Asia. The centre of gravity of global geopolitics and geo-economic affairs is gradually but surely shifting towards Asia and it has been widely acknowledged that the present century could be the `Asian'century."
The ministerial declaration adopted unanimously by CICA — which includes India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Russia, China and a number of Central Asian States — was an earnest attempt at critiquing
Washington's emphasis on unilateralism in its approach to international problems. "Recent developments in international relations demonstrate that multilateral approaches based on the widest possible international support are the most effective way to address the challenges of the contemporary world," the declaration noted. "We emphasise the need for reform of the UN system to make it more responsive to traditional and new challenges."
In an oblique reference to the controversy over the standoff between Iran, on the one hand, and the United States and the European Union on the other, the CICA Foreign Ministers reaffirmed "that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery pose a threat to international peace and security, and call upon all states to fulfil their respective obligations in the sphere of disarmament and non-proliferation. We emphasise that international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation should not affect the rights of States to access and use nuclear technology."
`Exchange of information'
Among the catalogue of CBMs which CICA countries have agreed to realise in practice "on bilateral and/or bilateral basis" is the exchange of information "in accordance with their national laws" of components of armed forces, and defence budgets, inviting observers from member-States to military exercises, encouraging mutual visits between armed forces, preventing the activities of "separatist and extremist organisations" and taking measures to share information on proliferation of weapons of massdestruction and their means of delivery.
In the cultural sphere, CICA countries have committed themselves to the "promotion of dialogue among civilisations, including dialogue among religions."
According to the "rules of procedure" adopted on October 22, membership of the body has been restricted to those countries having " a part of [their] territory geographically located in Asia."
On October 21, Thailand was formally inducted as a member. The U.S. and Japan only have observer status.
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