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Satellites provide pointers, but no signs of Indian Air Force aircraft yet

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IAF AN-32 maximum speed is 530Kmph. Image Source: Indian Express
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  • The missing aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m on Jul 22
  • Indigenous satellites have provided some pointers and ships are searching the indicated area, but nothing has been spotted
  • There is a possibility that in the Bay of Bengal there are several whirlpools that may have dragged down the debris

CHENNAI/NEW DELHI: An Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft which disappeared on Friday with 29 people on board remained missing on Sunday, July 24, despite an intensive search and rescue operation, codenamed ‘Operation Talash”, and some pointers were provided by indigenous satellites.

A senior defence ministry official said indigenous satellites have provided some pointers and ships are searching the indicated area, but nothing has been spotted.

The navy has pressed a flotilla of vessels including a submarine to locate the missing AN-32 which went off the radar two days ago over the Bay of Bengal just half hour after taking off from Chennai on its journey to Port Blairr.

There has been no trace of the plane or debris. There are also no signals from the transporter, officials said.

According to Indian Coast Guard, an international safety network was activated as part of the search and rescue procedures for alerting the merchant ships passing through the region.

The Coast Guard said ships like MV Harsh Vardhana enroute from Port Blair to Chennai, MV Sebat and MV Delice were directed to keep a sharp look out for survivors or debris.

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An experienced pilot of the Indian defence forces told IANS: “Normally it would take a week for the debris to float in such cases. But search and rescue operations have to be carried out.”

According to him, if the plane broke into several parts, then there may be a possibility of some debris floating.

But if it falls into the sea without breaking, then it may take nearly a week for some items to come to the surface from the sea depth.

“As per our calculations, the sea depth in the area of search is around 3,500 metres,” T.M. Balakrishnan Nair, Head, Information Services Group, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), told IANS over phone from Hyderabad.

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He said the organisation was running models estimating the distance to where the plane debris would have been carried by the sea current.

“In the Bay of Bengal there are several whirlpools that may have dragged down the debris,” he added.

Eastern Naval Command chief Vice Admiral H.C.S. Bisht said that a large number of ships, helicopters and aircraft are contributing to the search.

“We are also seeking ISRO’s help to get satellite imagery of that area so that we have at least some information… Parallelly we are also reaching out to families,” he said.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, after reviewing the search and rescue operations on Saturday, had asked the commanding officers to keep in touch with families of those on board the missing aircraft.

Bisht said the search has been made difficult by the monsoon weather conditions over the sea.

“The only challenge we are facing is of monsoon condition, rough seas; another challenge is the depth which is around 3,500 meters and at some points even more than that,” he said.

The cloud base is low and it is raining continuously in the area, he said.

“We are continuously searching the area. As of now we have 12 ships. We will be increasing the assets. We are also doing regular aerial surveillance. The aim is to harness as many resources as possible.”

The missing aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m. and was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 a.m.

The recorded transcript of Chennai air traffic radar showed the last pickup of the aircraft was 151 nautical miles east of Chennai when it was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet.

The AN-32 is a twin engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin. It can carry a maximum load of around 6.7 tonnes or 39 paratroopers. Its maximum cruise speed is 530 kmph. (IANS)

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.