India is likely to respond to a fresh request from Malaysia to expand the search for missing flight MH370 to the Southern Indian Ocean by sending in long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft to cover a vast expanse of the ocean that extends almost up to the South Pole.
Sources in the Defence Ministry have said the fresh request is for a search area that is 5000 nautical miles South and South West of Jakarta, a colossal part of the Indian Ocean where the search for a missing aircraft would an extremely challenging task.
Officials said long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft — primarily the state-of-the-art Boeing P 8I’s — are being readied for the task and would be deployed as soon as requisite permissions are granted by the government. This task, sources said, would be primarily undertaken by aircraft given the vast expanse of the search area.
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At the same time, the Chinese government has sought permission to deploy its search ships in and around the Andaman sea to carry out a through lookout for the missing aircraft that primarily had Chinese citizens on board.
Sources said the Chinese request is to deploy its ships around the Andaman Nicobar Islands that are home to India’s tri-services military command. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have already carried out a detailed survey of the region and have not come up with any results yet.
The search was temporarily suspended as the Malaysian authorities had indicated that a fresh search area would be designated shortly. It is therefore uncertain whether the Indian side will grant permission to the Chinese government to carry out a fresh search in the Andaman sea.
The new search area, however, is not the primary focus and Indian efforts are expected to start shortly. Given the distance involved, the search area is likely to be broken up into several parts by participating nations that include Australia and the US. Indian aircraft that will participate will also most likely have to fuel up at a friendly nation near the search area to be effective for the operations.