The government has cancelled the scheduled visit of Gen Vijay Kumar Singh, the now controversial commander-in-chief of the Indian Army, to Israel next month, citing the precarious security situation in the region.
Gen Singh was scheduled to visit Tel Aviv in mid-March to discuss and review military programmes between the two countries, as well as future joint defence programmes. Minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju said the situation in Syria and other factors were behind the decision to cancel the visit.
Some observers immediately saw the cancellation as a move to sideline Gen Singh after he took the government to court over his retirement age, and lost his case. Many expected him to retire immediately for the sake of his and the Army's dignity, but he has not done so.
The Army has meanwhile issued a formal retirement notice to Gen Singh under the usual regulations, though the 'retirement warning notice' has been issued late in his case due to his court challenge.
However the official explanation that the visit has been cancelled due to geopolitical factors carries considerable weight. India's relations with sanction-hit Iran are in a delicate state, particularly after the recent attack on an Israeli diplomat in Delhi, which Israel has squarely accused Iran of masterminding.
Iran supplies about 13 per cent of India's oil needs. At the same time, India's defence cooperation with Israel has been steadily growing, with India being the biggest buyer of Israeli defence hardware for over a decade.