Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is desperate to have good relations with India, not because he is genuinely interested in peace with its neighbour, but to preserve his own military regime, says a top legal expert of that country.
"Musharraf is desperate to have good relations with India because he wants the stability of his regime and not because he is interested in peace. India and Pakistan are proceeding in a direction which can't be called friendly," Farooq Hassan, who was also an adviser to four former Pakistan prime ministers, said in an interview.
"India rightly feels aggrieved by actions and tragedies emanating from Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, articulates the needs of the regime in power and doesn't contemplate a wider visionary goal of peace in the region," Hassan replied when asked what he thought of New Delhi's contention that Islamabad was behind terrorist incidents in India.
A senior advocate at Pakistan's Supreme Court who has served as adviser to former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Moin Qureshi and Muhammad Khan Junejo, Hassan is an ardent advocate of democracy and has spoken out against the "military-mullah alliance" in his country.
"Unless there is a genuine metamorphosis of the military rule towards civilian rule in Pakistan, I am not optimistic about durable peace in the region," he said, amplifying his pet theory that under a military dispensation in Islamabad, there can't be a fundamental rapprochement between the two countries.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, although he is not mollycoddling the military regime in Pakistan, is kinder to Musharraf than his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee was, said Hassan, an admirer of Vajpayee's foreign policy and "statesman-like skills".
If Pakistan is really interested in a breakthrough in its relations with India, Pakistan should begin by granting India the most favoured nation (MFN) status. "The number one priority for Pakistan should be to give India the MFN status. This should help the consumer. This could be a real breakthrough," he said.
"Pakistan is the laboratory of what is called terrorism and extremism in the West. Pakistan is so desperately poor and is in grave danger of disintegrating," said Hassan, the author of "A Juridicial Critique of Successful Treason," - an influential book on coups in Pakistan.
To make his point, Hassan quoted a report by the Rand Corporation which says that Pakistan will be reduced to just Punjab in 2015. "There is a real danger that the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Sindh, Balochistan and the Northern Areas can secede from Pakistan," he said.
Although Hassan is sceptical about the current state of the peace process between India and Pakistan, he said that there was "tremendous goodwill" among people of both the countries towards each other. "Over the last 20 years or so, people from Pakistan who came to India were from a certain lobby.
"But in the last 4-5 years, there has been a generous widening of the base. Lawyers, journalists, cricket enthusiasts and middle class people are now coming to India.
"For the first time in the history of India-Pakistan relations, there is a genuine rapprochement at the popular level which could lead to a genuine understanding of issues," he said optimistically.
"India should use its vast influence in the region to ensure that military governments do not survive and thrive in the region," said Hassan, a scholar and constitutional expert who has taught at Harvard and Oxford.
"Democracy came to the world not through the US and the UK, but from India. That is the real gift of India," said Hassan, an admirer of the Indian democratic system who at the same time hoped for a resurgence of genuine democracy in Pakistan.