The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 has moved closer to India's east coast, with Kuala Lumpur on Friday requesting New Delhi to deploy assets in the Bay of Bengal to expand the scope of the search operations.
In yet another twist to the mysterious disappearance of the plane on March 8, the Malaysian authorities have sought Indian assistance to scour an expanse of more than 9,000 sq km in the Bay of Bengal.
The new maritime zone demarcated for search is more than 900 km west of Port Blair and barely 300 km from the Chennai coast. Search for the ill-fated plane has now entered India's exclusive economic zone, which extends 370 km from the east coast.
"Search in this area would be undertaken by the resources of the Vizag-based Eastern Naval Command," a navy official said.
Following up an earlier Malaysian request, India has already deployed six warships, four surveillance planes and choppers to carry out combing operations over an area of more than 34,000 sq km east of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N).
"Indian authorities have been asked to search for the missing plane in a total area measuring more 43,000 sq kms. This could several weeks," a former naval chief said.
The P-8I, the navy's latest submarine hunter plane, and the air force's C-130J special operations planes are taking part in the search operations. It is learnt India's first dedicated naval satellite GSAT-7 or Rukmini is also aiding the search mission.
India had on Wednesday joined the hunt for the plane, with the Coast Guard launching a Dornier aircraft and a warship to search for the missing plane in the Andaman Sea.