Washington, Feb 25: Negotiations over a civilian nuclear deal between India and the United States, touted as the centerpiece of President George W Bush's historic visit to India, is yet to yield a consensus, dashing all hopes of the landmark agreement being clinched in time to coincide with the presidential state visit to New Delhi.
Mr Bush had said that his top priority was to get the nuclear agreement sealed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the trip next week but negotiators have not been able to do so mainly because of difficulties in separating civil and military nuclear reactors by India.
Asked whether the deal would determine the success or otherwise of Bush's visit to India, US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said, 'certainly not'. Mr Hadley was briefing reporters at the White House on the forthcoming trip of President Bush to India and Pakistan.
If an agreement is reached in time for his visit, it would be a big achievement for Mr Bush's trip. But Mr Hadley insisted if a deal is not sealed, it would not mar the visit.
President Bush leaves on his first ever tour to India and Pakistan on Tuesday.
Mr Hadley said US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had held several rounds of talks in New Delhi this week.
"We're making progress, but we're not yet there", he said.
"We'd like to get it before the trip. If we can, great. If we can't, we'll continue to negotiate it after the trip.'' Mr Hadley said taking comfort from the fact that 'a long list' of areas involving bilateral cooperation would be announced during the trip to ''demonstrate the breadth and intensity" of the relationship between the two countries.
Mr Hadley said the agreement between New Delhi and the US to expand civil nuclear cooperation will not only help India's development of nuclear energy, but also cause India to accept proliferation restrictions that are in accordance with much of the international community.
"The civil nuclear cooperation we contemplate with India will not only be good for India to help it deal with the enormous challenges it faces in its own development to find a clean, environmentally sound and secure energy, but it also has the effect of bringing India on the same page as the rest of us in terms of the fight against nuclear proliferation", Mr Hadley said.