With US President George W Bush set to sign a bill on Wednesday to ratify the India-US civil nuclear deal, Washington expressed confidence that the implementing 123 accord would also be inked "at some point".
"Let me just say the agreement will be signed at some point by both sides. I just can't tell you when at this point, but the agreement will be signed," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters on Tuesday.
Asked if India had conveyed to the US that it would sign the nuclear deal once Bush has signed it, he said: "We're trying to work out, you know, a date whereby a signing can take place. But again, I would just say to you the agreement is done and the agreement will be signed."
Pressed to comment on Indian press reports that New Delhi had refused to sign the accord until they could see how Bush addresses some of their concerns, Wood stuck to his refrain.
"I would just say to you that the agreement will be signed. The deal is done and we just need to find a date for the signing," he said.
"I'm not going to get into conversations that we've had with regard to, you know, the context, the nature or the substance of the agreement because we haven't really done that.
"But I can assure you that the agreement will be signed, as I said. You know, we're just trying to find an appropriate date," he repeated.
Asked if he felt confident that the bilateral 123 Agreement will be signed by both sides, Wood said: "I do."
The White House has invited lawmakers, prominent members of the Indian American community, leading businessmen of the two countries besides officials and diplomats, who all played a major role in pushing the deal, for the signing ceremony in the East Room at 2.50 p.m. Wednesday (12.20 a.m. IST Thursday).
Although officials are unwilling to say so, Bush is also expected to take care of a couple of Indian concerns over the legislation that apparently came in the way of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee signing the 123 Agreement during her visit to New Delhi over the weekend.
Bush would likely seek to allay India's concerns regarding nuclear fuel assurances, technology transfers for uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel with a signing statement as he did over certain "extraneous and prescriptive" provisions in the Hyde Act in December 2006.
US presidents have often used such signing statements to interpret a law the way they choose without taking the extreme step of rejecting a bill outright with a veto. Usually these are quietly listed in the Federal Register recording all executive actions without a public announcement.
After signing into law the legislation passed by Congress approving the 123 Agreement, Bush is also required to certify that the accord is consistent with US obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
He also has to certify that it is the policy of the US to work with members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to further restrict transfers of equipment and technology related to uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
Following the certifications, India and the US will exchange diplomatic notes pursuant to Article 16(1) of the 123 Agreement, thereby bringing the agreement into force - only then the deal envisioned by Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005 would be finally done.