Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has postponed his visit to India – ostensibly in view of protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act in and around Guwahati, where he was scheduled to hold the annual summit with his counterpart Narendra Modi early next week.

Japan is the second foreign country to postpone an official visit to India after Modi Government in New Delhi got the Bill to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 passed by both Houses of Parliament. With Home Minister Amit Shah's remarks on the persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh not going down well with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Government in Dhaka, Foreign Minister of the neighbouring country, A K Abdul Momen, on Thursday postponed his visit to India. Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan too called off his proposed visit to Shillong.

Japanese Prime Minister was scheduled to commence his visit to India on Sunday.

Modi was keen to host Abe in Guwahati – the main city of North-East – and hold the annual summit on the bank of Brahmaputra on Monday. The two leaders were also expected to visit Manipur on Tuesday to pay homage to the soldiers of Japanese Army and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, who had fallen while fighting the British Army in the Battle of Imphal in 1944.

As protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) spiralled in Guwahati and other places in Assam, New Delhi and Tokyo has been in touch since early this week, evaluating the security situation in the north-eastern city, which had seen thousands of angry protesters marching on the streets, often resorting to violence, defying curfew and clashing with police personnel.

Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, however, announced in New Delhi on Friday that both sides (Indian and Japanese governments) had “decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future”.

The protesters vandalised a roadside makeshift podium set up as part of the face lift the local authorities were giving the city ahead of the visits by Modi and Abe. They also brought down and set ablaze billboards put up by the local authorities welcoming the two Prime Ministers to the city.

It was after two protesters were killed in police firing and Indian Army personnel were deployed to carry out flag-marches in and around Guwahati, Tokyo conveyed to New Delhi that Japanese Prime Minister could not visit the city amid such widespread violence.

Though both sides discussed the possibility of shifting the venue of the summit to New Delhi, Japanese Government finally suggested that it should rather be deferred to a later date.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo that Japanese Government would consult with its counterpart in New Delhi to decide the appropriate timing of the visit of the Prime Minister of the East Asian nation to India. He mentioned that the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to India had to be postponed in view of the unrest in Guwahati and other places in Assam.

Prime Ministers of the two countries hold summits every year – in India and Japan alternately. The summit in Guwahati would have been the 14th between the leaders of the two nations.

Modi earlier hosted Abe in Varanasi and Ahmedabad during summits in 2015 and 2017. Abe accompanied Modi during a tour to Kyoto during the summit in Tokyo in 2014. He also hosted Modi at his villa near Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi province of Japan in 2018.