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Japan's Shinzo Abe postpones India summit amid violence

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan's Shinzo Abe postpones India summit amid violence
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) has canceled a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) amid unrest in northeast India. File Photo by Shealah Craighead/White House | License Photo

Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has postponed a summit with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi amid an outbreak of violence following protests over a controversial citizenship bill in India.

Abe, who has been building closer military and economic ties with India in recent years, was expected to travel to Guwahati between Sunday and Tuesday, The Hindu reported Friday.

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But protests in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, have been met with violence. At least two people have died during the hunger strike in northeast India following the government's decision to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill, according to CNN.

The bill would grant Indian citizenship to immigrants for three adjacent states, including Bangladesh. Citizenship would not extend to Muslims.

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Protesters claim the "unconstitutional" bill would marginalize the Muslim community in India. Other groups are wary of immigrants from Bangladesh adversely impacting employment prospects, government welfare access and education, according to the report.

On Friday, Raveesh Kumar, official spokesman for India's ministry of external affairs, said the summit with Japan could take place soon, but did not confirm whether it would happen by the end of the year.

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"With reference to the proposed visit of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's visit to India, both sides have decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future," Kumar tweeted.

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Indian officials had reportedly proposed relocating the summit to Delhi, but Tokyo decided postponement amid unrest would be the better alternative, according to The Hindu.

Tokyo had agreed to holding the summit in Guwahati because of its focus on Japanese investments in northeast India, according to reports.

Two people were killed on Thursday after soldiers threw a stun grenade to disperse crowds. Troops also started firing, eyewitnesses say.

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