India is facing a major diplomatic backlash over the country’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill. After it passed on Wednesday, Japan and Bangladesh canceled official visits.
As violent protests against the new law continued in the north-eastern state of Assam, Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Friday pulled out of a scheduled trip. Ministry spokesman Sharif Mahmud Opu said the visit had been “postponed” for “inevitable” reasons. “The minister will visit India at a suitable time soon,” he added.
The announcement came a day after Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen called off his official visit to India. He had been due to attend the two-day Indian Ocean Dialogue and Delhi Dialogue XI, which began on Friday, and meet his Indian counterpart.
“The foreign minister will visit Delhi at a convenient time in the near future and we have communicated the same to the Indian authorities,” said Andalib Elias, acting director general of the South Asia desk at the Bangladesh foreign ministry.
Bangladesh also rejected a statement by Indian home minister Amit Shah that the new citizenship law will provide protection to “persecuted minorities” from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
An official visit to India by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also been postponed amid the unrest in Assam. He was due to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the annual India-Japan summit, which was scheduled to begin on Sunday in Guwahati, Assam’s largest city.
In a message posted on Twitter on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: “With reference to the proposed visit of the Japanese PM @Abeshinzo to India both sides have decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future.”
After the protests began in Assam on Wednesday, a curfew was imposed in four of the main cities in the state and the internet was shut down. Two paramilitary battalions were deployed to contain the demonstrations.
The Assamese are concerned that the new law will nullify the Assam Accord of 1985, which defined immigrants from Bangladesh who entered India after March 24, 1971 to be illegal. The CAB changes that date to 2014. The presence of illegal immigrants, the Assamese say, threatens their linguistic and cultural identity.