With the nuclear deal poised for an approval by the US Congress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit India next month to sign the 123 bilateral agreement that will seal the landmark deal.
"We are discussing the possibility of the visit of the Secretary of State to India. We have been trying it for sometime and looking for possibility of dates," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters on Thursday night after talks between US President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"Rice will come to India early next month. If the Congress approves the 123 pact, it will be signed during Rice's visit," an official, privy to nuclear negotiations, told IANS.
The India-US 123 pact, the bilateral accord that set terms for nuclear business between the two countries, will be signed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Rice.
Rice could not make it to an exclusive dinner Bush hosted for Manmohan Singh and his close aides on Thursday at Old Family Dining Room in the White House as she was working overtime to swing Democrats to expedite Congressional approval for the nuclear civilian agreement.
The US House of Representatives is poised to take up an approval resolution on Friday that could lead to the Congressional approval, which will effectively finalise the deal.
The Congress is scheduled to break Sep 26 for the Nov 4 elections, but indications are that the two chambers may work through the weekend and maybe even into Monday to deal with the Bush administration's $700 billion bail-out plan to save the US financial system from its worst crisis in decades.
The Bush administration is also working overtime to ensure that the India nuclear accord is wrapped up by the time Manmohan Singh concludes his five-day visit to the US Saturday.
In his talks with Mammohan Singh at the White House, Bush assured the Indian prime minister that his administration was "working hard to get the deal passed as quickly as possible".
He also underlined that Washington wanted the deal to satisfy New Delhi - a veiled reference to some contentious provisions in the bill which are being opposed by India.
The bill introduced on Thursday by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman, like the Senate Committee version, makes the implementing 123 Agreement subject to the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, the Hyde Act and any other applicable US law.
But contrary to the general impression, there is no reference to "testing" except by implication in either bill. India has maintained that it is only bound by the 123 agreement and does not comment on internal political process in another country.
As the Senate version is slightly different, the upper chamber too didn't vote on the measure on Thursday, apparently waiting for the final House version to emerge.
If the two passed versions are not identical, a select committee would have to meet in a "conference" to reconcile them before Bush can sign in it into law.