Ahead of President George W Bush signing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal into law, the US on Monday said it was still uncertain as to when the two countries would ink the landmark accord.
Maintaining that he is not aware as to when exactly the US-India civilian nuclear agreement is going to be formally inked, the State Department's deputy spokesman Robert Wood said the important thing is that the deal has been finalised and what remains now are just administrative matters.
"I don't know when it will be signed. I think we put out a taken question late last week on what we believe to be the process of getting that agreement formally finalised," Wood said at his briefing on Monday.
Wood was asked if the agreement is going to be signed before the next administration or it is going to be put off until the "next lot" comes in.
"I've learned never to put time-frames on things like this. We'll just have to see. But the important thing to realise is that the agreement has been done and it's a good agreement for all of the parties that I mentioned," he replied.
The senior state department official underlined that the deal is good for both India and the United States.
"But I think it's just administrative matters, as Secretary (Rice) referred to. I'm not aware of any concerns that the Indian government may have, but I'd refer you to them with regard to any concerns that they might have," he added, going on to answer a query as to whether New Delhi told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent visit that it did not like certain elements of the legislation.
The American official said the US and India have had "extensive discussions" on the deal.
"We've had extensive discussions with the Indians with regard to this agreement. And we've covered a wide range of areas. I think the fact that we're able to get this agreement done says a lot about what we've all gone through, in terms of working with Congress, with the Indian government, with others in the international community to bring this agreement to fruition," Wood said.
The top US official stressed that though the accord may not have been signed yet, "the deal has been reached."
"It's formally not signed, but let's be real. I mean, the deal has been reached. And it's a great deal for both India and the United States... it will be signed. And I think it's important to focus on exactly what we've accomplished by reaching this agreement with the Indians. And this, again, is a very big boom to international non-proliferation efforts. And it's a very good thing," he said.
The bill was approved by both the US House of Representatives and Senate last week with bipartisan support.
The White House said last week President Bush will sign the legislation on the Indo-US nuclear deal into law on Wednesday.
India has made it clear that New Delhi will sign the 123 agreement to operationalise the deal with the US only after Bush signs the bill.
India expects that a statement from Bush while signing the legislation will address its concerns over certain provisions of the 123 agreement.