Itanagar/New Delhi, May 3: Indian space agency Isro pointed to a fresh location in Bhutan as the focus of the search for missing Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu shifted to the mountainous neighbour amid calls to take Chinese help.
Senior officials in Delhi, however, ruled out taking Beijings assistance.
We dont understand why there are calls from some elements like this. We want to tell you we havent left any stone unturned, said a government official in the capital.
In Arunachal capital Itanagar, Union minister V. Narayanasami underlined the priority the Centre had given to the search for the Pawan Hans helicopter that has been missing since Saturday after it took off with Dorjee and four others on board.
The Centre has accorded utmost priority to the search operations, with the state government, the defence, home and external ministries and the PMO involved in the rescue operations along with local residents. Around 2,500 troops and 1,000 local residents are also involved in the operations, Narayanasami said.
His central colleagues Mukul Wasnik and B.K. Handique were among others present at the evening media briefing where the leaders faced uncomfortable questions on whether enough troops had been pressed into the search operation.
Narayanasami said two of the seven locations identified by Isro and Sukhoi aircraft were searched but no clue had been found. The search at Nagar GG and Bongajan in West Kameng district did not yield anything. A search team will be reaching Pakhtu GG in Bhutan by this evening, one of the seven shortlisted sites. This site will be our new focus area along with the other four remaining sites. Bhutan is extending all help, he said.
Sources said troops from the Indian Military Training Team and the Royal Bhutan Army had also joined the search. The focus shifted to Bhutan as Isro pointed to a fresh location with dispersed metal.
In Delhi, sources said they had come to know that someone close to the family of the chief minister had demanded that the government seek Chinas help.
The sources said that the person, based in Delhi till Monday, might have called up Congress workers in Itanagar, urging them to raise the demand for seeking Beijings help.
Home ministry officials said there was no need for Chinese help as every force was involved in the search operation. The media is keeping an eye on all the developments, said a ministry official.
Hundreds of troops from the police, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal, the army, the Border Roads Organisation, the IAF and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are scouring the rugged, mountainous terrain for the missing chopper, but inclement weather and altitudes of 13,000-14,000ft have hobbled the search.
Control rooms set up by the army at Tezpur, Tenga and Tawang are organising the search mission in coordination with the police control room at Itanagar.
A 20-member team from the NDRFs Guwahati-based 1st battalion launched the search on foot around 6 this morning. The team marched to Nagar GG where local residents told them they had heard a bang last Saturday, said battalion deputy commandant Harbhajan Singh.
However, they couldnt find any wreckage till this evening when the search was called off because of bad light and unfavourable weather conditions. The search will resume early tomorrow, he said.
During a limited window of clear weather this morning, two air force helicopters from Tawang conducted a search in West Kameng but without much luck. Two Sukhoi sorties were also undertaken today.
The Arunachal government this evening announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for any information about the chief minister.