Speculation on Malaysian plane using Andaman island runways improbable

Kuala Lumpur/Port Blair – Indian officials at the Andaman Islands in southeast Bay of Bengal here have indicated that any speculation of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet to have entered the area is highly improbable, according to a local daily here Wednesday.

The daily Andaman Sheekha quoted unnamed officials here as saying that the Andaman and Nicobar Command of the Indian Armed Forces has already confirmed that there is no evidence of an air crash on or near any of the islands in the archipelago, lying over 1,000 km off the Indian mainland.

The officials expressed displeasure over suggestion by “a section of Malaysian officials” that the missing aircraft could have used runways at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to land.

“Today, we have come across reports that suggest that there are runways in the Andamans where the large Boeing 777-200 ER could have landed… Both runways are considered extremely sensitive and are well protected,” an official here was quoted as saying.

Andaman and Nicolar Islands, a union territory of India, have two runways — one at Car Nicobar and another at Port Blair. Car Nicobar is a full-fledged air base of the Indian Air Force which operates assets from it rountinely.

Any military or civil aircraft approaching it without necessary clearance would have been challenged, said the newspaper.

The other runway is at the semi-commercial, semi-military Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair here, the main port of the Andamans.

While a couple of Indian commercial airlines have daily flights to and from Kolkata, the airport is also used by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard to fly and station surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

“There has been an effort to indicate that these runways could have been used as they are on islands that are at a distance from the mainland. People should understand the strategic importance of the Andamans for India,” the newspaper quoted an official as saying.

The official said Indian authorities have gone through all data but there is no indication that any suspicious aircraft passed through the area on that date (March 8th).

But he said India is also aware the runways could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

But it is unlikely that a plane even flying at a low height over the islands could remain undetected, he added.

“We believe that the Malaysians are keeping a lot of information every close to their chest. This is hampering search operation as well,” the newspaper quoted another official as saying.

The official, also unidentified, expressed doubt that an aircraft without necessary clearance can fly over several countries and reach a Central Asian country as is being suggested by Malaysian authorities.

India has suspended search for the missing MH370 plane at the request of Malaysia after days of scanning at Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal without gaining any result. Source: Xinhua