The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India for an annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was to be held in Guwahati, was on Friday cancelled.
Guwahati, the capital of Assam, and several parts of the Northeast have seen violent protests since Thursday against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday and Monday also stands cancelled in view of the protests. Shah was scheduled to take part in the passing-out parade at North Eastern Police Academy near Shillong on Sunday and a festival in Tawang the next day.
The parliamentary standing committee on home affairs also cancelled its planned field visit to the region. The visit was scheduled for December 18 to 21.
According to a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, “both sides have decided to defer” the Japanese PM’s visit for the December 15-17 summit to a mutually convenient date. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar did not specify the reasons for the cancellation of the visit.
The cancellation of the Japanese PM’s trip came a day after Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called off their visits to India following the enactment of the controversial law.
Diplomatic sources said the Japanese government conveyed to New Delhi that it would not be possible for Abe to travel to Guwahati in view of large-scale protests in the region. They said the summit is now expected to take place next year. Sources said an alternative venue was not considered as hosting a leadership-level summit involves long preparations.
The summit is held in India and Japan in turns. A Japanese team visited Guwahati on Wednesday to take stock of the preparations.
At least two people were killed in police firing in Assam, following widespread protests against the contentious act, which was given the presidential assent Thursday night. Curfew has been imposed at several places in Assam, while the Army has carried out flag marches in many districts to control protests and violence. Protesters torched several vehicles and shops in Shillong in past two days.
The choice of Guwahati was part of Modi’s efforts in the past five years to take high-profile diplomatic visits outside the national capital to other cities. In his earlier visits, Abe has been to Ahmedabad and Varanasi. Chinese President Xi Jinping has been hosted in Ahmedabad and Chennai.
In recent years, Japan has increased its investments in infrastructure and development work in Assam. The Japanese PM was also likely to visit a memorial to Japanese soldiers killed during World War II in Manipur.