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No Trace of Missing AN-32 IAF aircraft in Arunachal; Pilot’s Kin Want Government to Talk to China

File photo of an AN-32 transporter aircraft.

File photo of an AN-32 transporter aircraft.

Thirteen people, including eight aircrew members, were onboard the IAF aircraft that had taken off for the Menchuka advanced landing ground near the China border on the afternoon of June 3.

Guwahati: Search and rescue operations for the missing Antonov AN-32 transport continued for the fourth day on Thursday. The aircraft, with 13 Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel on board, went missing on June 3 from Jorhat to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh.

While inclement weather delayed search operations on Thursday morning, they resumed as conditions improved. Several aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-30, C-130J, Mi-17 helicopters and an ALH, took off from Chabua, Tezpur and Jorhat air bases to conduct aerial searches in the dense valleys.

“Sorties are taking place from multiple bases. An Su-30 carried out a sortie last night. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the India Army has also been deployed,” said IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh.

Meanwhile, ground parties of the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), along with locals and district administration officials, are searching places around Siang district. An area of about 2,500 square kilometre falls under Kaying and Payum circle of Siang. Local hunters under Payum circle, who are well-acquainted with the terrain, have been playing a crucial role in the search operations.

“We have put district police, district administration and local population of five districts, but mainly three districts are involved because there are indications of possible remains of the aircraft in Payum circle. We have also involved local villagers, but till now we haven’t been able to locate any wreckage,” said Arunachal Director General of Police SBK Singh.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu met the Deputy Commissioners of Siang and West Siang on Wednesday to take stock of the search-and-rescue efforts. Three teams comprising three to four local residents have been formed under the Payum administrative circle to help trace the missing aircraft. These teams will search the Bayor Adi mountain range in front of Tumbin village, the Pari Adi mountain range in front of Molo village, and the Sibir-Virgong mountain range between Molo and Tumbin villages. All these villages fall in the line of the aircraft route to Mechuka. The state government has provided these teams with all necessary logistic support in the mission.

Meanwhile, the family of missing IAF pilot Ashish Tanwar expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of search operations, urging the government to provide extra manpower.

Speaking to News 18, Flight Lieutenant Tanwar’s mother said that the government should make efforts to talk to China, presuming from media reports that the aircraft might be somewhere close to the Indo-China border.

“They have asked us to be patient and assured that search operations are on. But I request the government to increase manpower, and help find them at the earliest. If you can’t find him in the hills, and if he’s in China, please get him from there. I have a feeling my son won’t leave me,” said an inconsolable Saroj Tanwar whose four children are serving in the armed forces.

Flight Lieutenant Tanwar’s wife and IAF officer Sandhya Tanwar, who is an Air Traffic Controller, was on duty the day the flight took off from Jorhat air base at 12:27 pm. Her family said she had immediately informed her seniors when the plane went off the radar at around 1 pm.

“I got the news at around 4 pm when my daughter-in-law called me. She only kept saying, ‘Mummy….Ashish’,” recalled the grieving mother.

Meanwhile, the IAF said the families of all personnel on board the aircraft are being regularly updated on the progress of search operations.

(With inputs from Dinesh Kumar)