New Delhi: An Indian Air Force Flight carrying foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to Mauritius went "off radar" for around 14 minutes on Saturday, giving the authorities in the island nation a big scare. The plane landed safely soon after, but not before the Mauritius air traffic control had pressed the panic button.
- The Indian Air Force Flight went "off radar" for about 14 minutes
- The authorities did not elaborate on what caused the incident
- Sushma Swaraj is visiting Mauritius on way to South Africa
In a communique, the Airports Authority of India said the flight, IFC 31, "could not contact" the Mauritius Air Traffic Control after entering Mauritius airspace. While flying over Maldives, the aircraft, it said, had made contact with Male Air Traffic Control at 16.44. But it could not contact the Mauritius airport authorities when it crossed over.
The Mauritius authorities then sounded the alarm. The Uncertainty phase (INCERFA) is the first of the three emergency phases as per international aviation rules, which signals uncertainty of the safety of an aircraft or its occupants. They did not wait for the stipulated 30 minutes, since a VIP was on board, the Airports Authority said.
The flight made contact and landed 14 minutes later, at 16.58. The authorities, however, did not elaborate on what caused the delay in contacting the Mauritius ATC.
Ms Swaraj is visiting Mauritius on way to South Africa, where she will attend a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Foreign Ministers' meeting, which will begin tomorrow. She will also chair a meeting of Foreign Ministers of IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa), another bloc working to deepen coordination among the three countries on major global issues.
During today's transit halt in Male, she met Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and her counterpart Seetanah Lutchmeenaraidoo.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said enhancing the ties between India and Mauritius was the focus of the meeting. "Connecting with our maritime neighbour! EAM @SushmaSwaraj called on the Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth. Enhancing our bilateral relationship was the focus of the meeting," Mr Kumar posted on Twitter.
Mauritius, entry point to the Atlantic Ocean, is the key point of India's influence in the south-west of the Indian Ocean. Its location is extremely crucial for New Delhi's vision of the Indian Ocean -- where China is attempting to expand its influence -- as a zone of peace and security.