Embarking on his first visit in New Delhi, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday said he was hopeful that India would clear the civil nuclear deal paving the way for Washington to take it forward.
"We are certainly hopeful that India can get done what it needs to, so that we can get done what needs to be done," Gates told reporters hours after his arrival here for discussions with Indian leadership.
But at the same time, Gates made it clear that India and the US military-to-military ties will continue "independent of the civil nuclear agreement."
His remark assumes significance as they indicate that Washington wants to give a last minute push to ensure that the deal is ratified before President George W Bush demits office.
Towards this end, Gates has a heavy schedule of meetings, including with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister AK Antony as well as senior BJP leader LK Advani, in which he is likely to seek bipartisan support for the deal.
Though not on his official schedule, Gates is also seeking a meeting with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The Defence Secretary, leading a 50-member defence-cum-business delegation, made it clear that his visit was focussed more on enhancing military trade and military ties with India.