Robert Gates, US Defence Secretary, adorns the cover of Time magazine of February 16, 2010, with the caption Man of War. His credentials speak for themselves as he has been a trusted aide to six presidents and despite being a Republican, is heading Democrat President Obamas defence team. Gates who replaced Donald Rumsfeld in 2006, has an unenviable task of shuttling from one war zone to another in his special aircraft Doomsday Plane. The war theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan or the terror stric-ken Pakistan, have all received his recent attention. Rising from director of central intelligence, hes the only Defence Secretary ever to be asked to stay on in a rival partys Administration. In his 1996 memoir, From the Shadows, Gates wrote, I was, during the remarkable events from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, there in the shadows, the proverbial fly on the wall in the most secret councils of government, listening, watching and observing many of the greatest events of the century. The US special-ops community fondly refers to Robert Gates as the Black Chi-nook-which lands at night, takes care of business and gets out. During his visit to India, prior to his trip to Pakistan, Gates was categorical when he stressed, After the Mumbai attacks, India had responded with great restraint and statesmanship. But if there is a repeat of 26/11, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Indias patience will be limited. This particular statement of Robert Gates was much to the chagrin of Pakistan. Its Armed Forces were rearing to have a go at Pakistan. Its defence planners were contemplating the use of surgical strikes to take out specific targets, reportedly, the terrorist training camps alleged to be in Pakistan. Israeli news source, DEBKAfile of December 4, 2008, disclosed that New Delhi had asked Jerusalem to assist in the operational and intelligence planning of Indian commando cross-border strikes against Islamist terrorist havens in Pakistan. The report informed that besides the Indian governments decision to embark on these in-and-out incursions in reprisal for the Mumbai outrage, Israel is willing to help the Indians carry out punitive forays into Pakistan because it has its own scores to settle for the brutal murder of six Israelis in Mumbais Chabad Center by the Islamist terrorists and for the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agencys hand in the atrocity. According to DEB-KAfile, Indian leaders showed the outline of this plan to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice a week later. She commented guardedly that the United States was strongly opposed to a full-scale war between India and Pakistan but not averse to limited counter-terror operations. Emboldened, Indian Air Force fighter aircraft violated Pakistani airspace and were intercepted. When the instant preparedness of Pakistans Armed Forces was made known, it took the wind from Indian sails. So much for Indian restraint and statesmanship Gates is being oblivious of Indian malice and malevolence, which is fully capable of stage-managing another attack on its soil, laying the blame squarely on Pakistan. No wonder Time magazine has labeled Robert Gates as Man of war. Its not that Gates has been wr-ong before. Although he gained the reputation of a Cold War hawk, an intelligence analyst who saw the Soviet Union as an implacable adversary, yet during the Reagan Administration, he sided with hard-liners who misread the Soviets. He failed to recognize that Mikhail Gorbachev was a true reformer. He didnt believe that Soviet power was collapsing. He said that the Soviets would never leave Afghanistan. They did. He said [former Afghan President] Najibullah would never survive the Soviet departure. Najibullah survived three or four years, recalls Mort Abramowitz, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research at the time. Four years later, while serving as Deputy National Security Adviser under President George H.W. Bush, Gates was nominated again to be DCI. CIA co-workers from the Soviet desk excoriated his character, his motives and his honesty. During his visit to Islamabad on January 22, he addressed the officers of National Defence University and frankly admitted that the U.S. made a grave mistake by cutting defence ties with Pakistan in the early 1990s and losing interest in the region after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. Now Mr. Gates has paid heed to General McCh-rystals recommendation to ne-gotiate with the Taliban to end the fighting. Robert Gates would be advised that if negotiation with the Taliban is to be opted for, then there should be no favorites. Already UN sanctions against five Taliban leaders have been lifted ignoring others. Gates can rise to the occasion by authorizing talks with the Taliban leaders across the board, irrespective of who was earlier sponsored by Pakistan or India or Britain or the CIA. History has presented him a unique opportunity to be remembered as a Man of Peace rather than Man of War. The writer is a political and defence analyst.