A top US official said on Thursday that Washington was making "steady progress" in persuading nuclear supplier nations to lift a 34-year-old embargo on nuclear trade with India.
"I believe that we're making steady progress in this process and that we'll continue to make progress," US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology worldwide.
The NSG met to try and hammer out consensus on a controversial nuclear cooperation deal between the United States and India.
At a meeting two weeks ago, the 45-member group failed to agree a change to its rules to allow the US-India deal.
"The United States believes firmly that the step that we're considering for India will strengthen non-proliferation and helps to welcome one of the world's largest economies and the world's largest democracy more fully into the global fold," Burns said.
Washington wants a special waiver of NSG rules for India, which refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), allowing Washington and New Delhi to cooperate in the civilian nuclear field.
A number of countries have openly expressed reservations about the 2005 US-India agreement.
"While a number of representatives here have raised important questions that need to be addressed, our discussions have been constructive and clearly aimed at reaching an early consensus," Burns sid.
"The truth is that we have before us an historical opportunity to end more than three decades of India's isolation from nuclear regimes and that opporunity warrants the extraordinary efforts that we're making."
The presence of Burns, the third-ranking State Department official, at the meeting was seen as a sign of the urgency which Washington attaches to a deal.
NSG rules currently ban all nuclear trade with India because it refuses to sign the NPT, developed atomic bombs in secret and conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.
The United States argues that the new deal will bring India into the NPT fold and help combat global warming by allowing India to develop low-polluting nuclear energy.
Critics argue that the deal undermines international non-proliferation efforts. They accuse the nuclear powers of ignoring the proliferation dangers in pursuit of commercial and political gains.
Diplomats said a number of countries have tabled conditions before the nuclear suppliers would give the green light.
The deal cleared one major hurdle in August when the International Atomic Energy Agency approved an India-specific safeguards agreement.
The NSG represents the next obstacle before the deal can be finally approved by the US Congress. Unanimous approval is required from the group.