In the three decades after India’s first successful nuclear test in 1974, relations between the US and India were cool. By the early 2000s, however, US policy-makers looking to maintain US dominance in Asia came to view India as a potential counterweight to China.
In January 2004, President Bush and India’s Prime Minister Bihari Vajpayee announced they had signed what would become known as the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) agreement.
Under the NSSP, the US and India pledged to take a series of reciprocal steps towards greater co-operation on civilian nuclear activities, space programs and high-technology trade.
The NSSP was hailed as a milestone in US-India relations. However, strong opposition within India threatened to derail the agreement.
When it became clear that a dramatic change in nuclear policy would be needed to win Indian support for the new strategic relationship, the US obliged. So did Australia.