04/10/2016 6:12 PM IST | Updated 04/10/2016 6:32 PM IST

Situation Live After Surgical Strikes, India Ready For Any Challenge: IAF Chief Arup Raha

He is the first chief among the three services to face the media after the strikes.

Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha listens to a question during a press conference in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

New Delhi, Oct 4 (PTI) — The situation is "live" in the wake of the surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the LoC and armed forces are ready to deal with any challenge, IAF Chief Marshal Arup Raha said today.

He also said it was just a "coincidence" that Pakistan Air Force's "High Mark" exercise took place at a time when tension between India and Pakistan was high.

Even as he refused to take questions on the surgical strikes by the army last week during his customary annual press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on 8 October, Raha said the force has the power to punish its enemy, but a decision on using it in an offensive role will have to be taken by the government.

"Air Force, Army and Navy are always ready," said Raha, who is also the Chairman, Chief of Staff Committee (COSC).

When told it would be a let down if he did not comment on the surgical strikes, Raha said he was in "half a mind" to call off the media interaction because he knew everybody is charged up and he would be asked questions on the issue.

"I think I should not say anything because it is very sensitive and things are still live," he said, asserting that the IAF is capable of taking on any contingency one can think of.

Raha is the first chief among the three services to face the media after the surgical strikes. Officials have remained tight-lipped about the operation except for a short and crisp statement by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Ranbir Singh.

Raha said the issue of surgical strikes was a sensitive one and the force was focused on improving its capability, but it was not directed at any specific country.

"We are not going to develop our capability vis-a-vis a particular adversary or country. We just build our capability to have a strategic reach and to deter our adversary. And if we have to use that capability in a conflict or contingency, we will," he said.

The IAF chief said it would have been the best, had the force's wish list been fulfilled.

Raha said earlier the procurement was "process driven and not outcome driven", but things were changing now. While procurement used to be a long-drawn process, the government is now trying to think out-of-the-box to shorten the time period. An example of this move is the Rafale deal which was in the works for nine years before a decision was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to opt for a government-to-government contract with France.

Raha also said the attack on the Pathankot airbase was a "setback" to the IAF and that the force has taken multiple steps to bolster security.

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