Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering canceling a trip to India that was to have started Sunday, Japan’s Jiji Press said, citing several government sources. The news came amid violent protests in India’s northeast over a new citizenship law approved by Parliament.
The cancellation would be a blow to Abe’s policy of cultivating ties with India to balance out China’s growing power in the region. Abe had been scheduled to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Assam's capital city Guwahati, where demonstrations agains the law have turned violent. The talks would have been the 16th between the two leaders.
Other Japanese media were also reporting that the visit was called off with public broadcaster NHK saying that Abe had “decided to postpone” and a formal announcement would come later Friday.
India’s new Citizenship Amendment Bill that was approved on Wednesday changed the rules governing the granting of citizenship to undocumented migrants to include religion as a criterion. It bars undocumented Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from seeking citizenship, while allowing their counterparts from other religions to do so.
In recent days, angry protests have erupted in Assam with thousands clashing with police amid concerns the new laws may lead to an influx of migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. There have also been demonstrations in other northeastern states including Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Tripura, forcing the government to send in hundreds of soldiers to aid local police.
When asked whether the trip would go ahead, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier Friday that there was a need to pay close attention to local conditions.
(With assistance from Emi Nobuhiro.)