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MH-370 enigma: Is there a top-secret India angle?

May 05, 2014 16:06 IST

Two months after the Malaysia Airlines plane vanished from radar screens, conspiracies have been floated to explain the enigma of the vanishing flight. Amid these claims, one is that the plane was hijacked and is being prepped for a terror attack, probably on India, by the Taliban or by Israeli agents.

Anvar Alikhan tries to piece this puzzle together and find out the truth behind flight MH-370.

In the wee hours of March 8, Malaysia Airlines flight MH-370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport enroute to Beijing. However, the plane, carrying a total of 239 passengers and crew members, went missing and since then, no one has been able to trace the jet.

Two months have passed, but the mystery surrounding the plane remains unsolved. In latest developments regarding the search operations, Malaysian authorities have arrested 11 suspected terrorists and while they have admitted to minor activities within Malaysia, they have denied any involvement in the MH-370 incident.

Which begs the question, how can something like a Boeing 777 simply vanish in today's world of satellite tracking, where it is impossible to even lose a phone?

In the absence of any conclusive findings, several theories have floated regarding the disappearance of the aircraft; one of which suggests that the timing of the aircraft's disappearance is no coincidence and that it may be linked to a 9/11-type attack on India, timed to greet the next prime minister.

But before one even considers the 9/11-type of attack as a possibility, one must examine all previous theories. After the plane vanished, two kinds of theories emerged. First, the technical theories based on catastrophic decompression, fire, double engine failure, a crack in the fuselage below the satellite communication antenna -- an error the Boeing 777 is allegedly prone to -- and pilot error.

The most convincing of these theories is by a veteran Canadian pilot, who was very familiar with the aircraft's route, which seems to fit together much of what we know of the aircraft's behaviour on that fateful flight. This theory states that flight MH370 turned 90 degrees over the South China Sea, which to an experienced pilot suggests that a fire had broken out and the captain of the plane, following all standard procedure, turned sharply towards the nearest and safest airport he knew -- Langkawi airport on Malaysia's west coast, which has an extra-long runway, ideal for such situations.

However, the fire evidently spread more rapidly than expected, taking out the communications equipment. Which is why, presumably, the pilot climbed to 40,000 feet to put out the flames in a low oxygen altitude, and when that didn't work, dived steeply to 12,000 feet in another attempt to extinguish the flames. But by now, decompression had presumably killed the crew, as well as the passengers. The aircraft, however, being on autopilot, continued to fly on to the full extent of its range, until it ran out of fuel, and finally fell out of the skies.

Questions unanswered

Many airline pilots agree with this theory, or some variant of it. But when you look closer, there are just too many oddities, too many unanswered questions.

Take, for example, the strange failure of the advanced satellites belonging to the United States and the failure of Boeing and its technology partners to track flight MH-370.

Sources within the Malaysia government have revealed that the disappearance of the aircraft and the disabling of the communication system 'appear to be deliberate' and whoever did it had a detailed understanding of the aircraft.

We have also been informed that the Central Intelligence Agency, the British secret service and the Chinese intelligence service have also joined the investigation. But, ultimately, the problem that remains is that no one has been able to find out the motive -- or else, whoever knows is not talking about it.

Meanwhile, a $100 million search later, the aircraft's black box, which could have answered some of the questions, is yet to be located. What's more, the alleged crash zone, on the verge of Antarctica, is one place on earth that would -- very conveniently -- swallow up any signs of unwanted evidence. Given all this, it is hardly surprising that people are turning to alternative explanations of what might have happened.

A retired top air force officer pointed to serious lapses in procedure and believed that, from the clues, it seems to have been something more than just technical failure. Perhaps, he speculated, there was something on board the aircraft that the Chinese or the Americans wanted to get their hands on, maybe something pertaining to drone or stealth technology.

There is, in fact, an entire set of alternative theories, which one might call 'meta-normal' -- those that go beyond normal technical factors. And, given the circumstances, it is understandable. As the saying goes, conspiracy theories abhor a vacuum, and rush in to fill it, whenever it occurs.

Conspiracies floated

One theory suggests that it was a US 'black op', in which flight MH-370 was commandeered, perhaps for some clandestine cargo it was carrying, and flown to the top-secret US base at Diego Garcia, perhaps by remote control. (In fact, the name Diego Garcia appears in a number of theories, but an official US spokesman, when asked, replied, 'I think we can rule that out'.)

Another theory speculates about Freescale Semiconductor, a high-tech US company that works on 'invisibility cloak' technologies, and the curious fact that no less than 20 of its employees happened to be on that flight. Another theory suggests the aircraft was downed by a Chinese submarine-based missile, because there was a politically undesirable passenger on board who needed to be neutralised.

A variant of this is that it was shot down by the Americans, inadvertently or advertently, and they don't want to admit it, especially since it happened just weeks before a long-awaited visit to Malaysia by US President Barack Obama.

Yet another theory claims that an identical twin of MH-370 has been parked in a secret hangar in Israel since last November, for some purpose.

And of these, the most plausible one is that MH-370 was hijacked by the Taliban and are readying it for a 9/11-type strike, taking advantage of its unmatched 7,500-mile range.

Target India?

And if the last theory is to be believed then this is how it goes: Flight MH-370 was, in fact, commandeered by Israeli agents, who flew it to the farthest, deepest, most inaccessible part of the Indian Ocean and deliberately crashed it there. The timing of this was not coincidental. They are now waiting till the second half of May, when, presumably, Narendra Modi will have been sworn in as prime minister.

At that point, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 -- the identical twin of MH-370 that is reportedly in Israel -- will be crashed into an Indian city, a 9/11-type of attack ostensibly perpetrated by Iranian terrorists, an attack artfully designed to draw a hawkish new Indian government into retaliating accordingly, and thus joining Israel's long-standing campaign against Iran, in whatever capacity.

Alternatively, of course, it could be some kind of replay of the 26/11 incident, by rogue elements in Pakistan, or by the Taliban, or both, trying once again to draw India into going to war.

However, when it comes to conspiracy theories, it is always useful to remember what renowned astronomer Carl Sagan said: 'Extraordinary theories call for extraordinary evidence.' And the fact is we have no evidence to support any of these.

So what, really, is the truth about flight MH370?

The 'world's most expensive search operation in history' has obviously failed, and the black box itself has finally fallen silent, so we will probably never find it. Which means that we will probably never know the truth.

Maybe someone, somewhere, wants it to be that way.

Image: A woman prays for the family and victims of flight MH-370.

Anvar Alikhan