Reiterating its support for the India-US civil nuclear deal ahead of the crucial trust vote in the Manmohan Singh government, the US has said it will do all it can to move forward once New Delhi decides.
"I think this is a pretty unique agreement," a state department spokesman said on Monday when asked about a senior official's comment that Washington intends to go ahead with the deal even with a minority government in New Delhi.
"What we have stated is that this is an important agreement to us. We believe it's an important agreement for India," Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters. But "Indians have to decide whether or not they wish to proceed with this agreement."
"We have said that we continue to support it, and we'll do all we can to move forward with it once we hear from the Indians," he added.
Noting that the Indian parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on the motion of confidence in the government, Gallegos said, "I guess we'll have to wait and see where we go with this."
Earlier, rediff.com quoted Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher as saying that US intends to move forward with the nuclear deal with whatever government is in charge in New Delhi - even if it is in minority.
The Bush administration was ready to "go as far as" possible to see conclusion of the deal, he told the website. "We are going to work with the Indians, we are going to work with the Congress and we are going to take this as far as we can go."
Aware that unlike the US, the Indian government does not require legislative approval for the deal, the Bush administration's new point man on the deal said: "Internally within India, that's a question for your (India's) law, and your (India's) policy and your (India's) political community."
But he pointed out, "In terms of the United States and India, we deal with the legally constituted government of India - whoever is running that government at the time, that's who we sign agreements with. So, that's not a problem for us."
"If they have a legitimate government, people who are empowered to run the government, that's who we'll deal with," he said and reiterated, "That's not a problem for us."
Asked if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to go ahead with the deal despite the Left parties' withdrawal of support had come a little too late, Boucher said, "I guess what I'll say is it's never too late. This is not a deal between a government and another government. It's a deal between the United States and India - it's good for India, it's good for the United States."
Acknowledging the constraints of the Congressional calendar, Boucher said:
"...I think, everybody wants to take it as far as we can. I can't promise what the US Congress will do, but if we take it to some point and time expires on this Congress, then the new Congress will have to take it up - that's all you can say. So, that's our pledge."
India also needs to sign an India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and get clearance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) before the deal goes to the US Congress for final approval.
On its part the US had already launched a concerted effort to expeditiously move on all fronts - IAEA, NSG - in order to try and consummate the deal before the end of its term in office and this Congress, Boucher said, "We are already heavily engaged - we've got designated teams working on this stuff."
Thus, Boucher added, "We've really set ourselves up to do this as fast as possible but there's an enormous amount to be done."