Two Dornier and one P-8I aircraft will scour the sea east of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

India on Thursday joined the multination search for the Malaysian Airlines plane, deploying three ships and as many aircraft in the seas east of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the base of its tri-services command.

Defence Ministry officials said two Dorniers and one newly acquired P-8I aircraft, capable of reconnaissance for long periods over the oceans, will assist the Malaysian Navy, which spearheads the search for the jetliner, which has been missing for almost six days.

The decision came after Defence Minister A. K. Antony gave the green signal for conducting a search in an area close to Myanmar and Malaysia, the officials said.

On Tuesday, Malaysia requested India to join the search after planes and ships of at least 10 countries were unable to locate the aircraft in the seas to the west of the Strait of Malacca. India is the dominant naval power in the seas to the east of the Strait, the busiest shipping channel in the world.

Now search operations are being conducted in an area of 90,000 sq. km, about the size of Punjab and Haryana combined.

The officials said INS Saryu, INS Kumbhir and ICG Kanaklata Barua would have reached the area by now. The Coast Guard has been flying a plane over the area since Wednesday, and the deployment of the naval assets will add heft to the operations.