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Sceptical India scours land

New Delhi, March 19: Malaysia today requested India to scour remote parts of Arunachal Pradesh and search in the Indian Ocean west and south of the Maldives for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared on March 8 on its way to Beijing.

India will deploy aircraft to search the northern-most corners of Arunachal Pradesh. It is contemplating joining maritime search operations in the Indian Ocean following the request, officials in the country’s strategic establishment confirmed to The Telegraph late this evening.

But India is convinced the plane could not have landed — or crashed — on its land, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, a region India and China both claim, without any radar spotting the aircraft, officials said.

India has already surveyed all its radars — civilian and military — in that region, and has told Malaysia they did not record any unidentified plane that could possibly be MH370, the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft.

“This is a new search, in areas completely different from where we looked earlier,” an official said. “But we don’t see any way the plane could have possibly entered our territory — leave alone land or crash in it.”

The new search coordinates handed over by Malaysia to India are based on the maximum distance the plane could have travelled from 8.11am on March 8, when a satellite in the Indian Ocean last received an automatic ping from the aircraft.

The two on-board communication systems used to message air traffic control had long been switched off, so the final ping to the satellite does not pinpoint the plane’s exact position.

But based on the satellite’s own position, the ping has helped investigators draw two specific arcs that signify corridors on which the plane had to be when it last communicated with the satellite.

One corridor stretches from northern Laos, kissing Arunachal Pradesh and running through southwest China into Kazakhstan. The other corridor curves southwest from the Java Sea to the southern Indian Ocean.

From its position on one of the two arcs, the plane could have travelled a maximum of another two hours with the fuel it had remaining.

It is this expanded corridor — that accounts for the additional two hours the plane could have travelled from the last satellite trace — that India will now help search, officials said.

Australia is in charge of the search in the southern Indian Ocean, and Indonesia closer to the Java Sea, but a two-hour flight from the southeastern arc could have brought the plane close to the ocean south and west of the Maldives.

India had earlier searched in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, but had wound up its search there after it found no signs of the plane or debris, and after the satellite-based evaluation of the plane’s location showed other areas as likelier final positions for the aircraft.


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