During the 1800s and 1900s, Madagascar passed back and forth between British and French spheres of influence and possession. The country became independent from France in 1960. Relations between the United States and Madagascar date to the mid-1800s. The two countries concluded a commercial convention in 1867; established diplomatic relations in 1874; and concluded a treaty of peace, friendship, and commerce in 1881. Traditionally warm relations suffered considerably during the 1970s, when Madagascar expelled the U.S. Ambassador, closed a NASA tracking station, and nationalized two U.S. oil companies. In 1980, relations at the ambassadorial level were restored.
In 2009, Madagascar's democratically elected president stepped down under pressure from the military and purported to transfer his authority to a senior military figure, who in turn purported to confer the presidency on the opposition leader, who is currently heading the self-proclaimed High Transitional Authority (HAT). The United States considers the series of events in Madagascar in early 2009 to be a military coup d'état. In the aftermath of the coup d’etat, Madagascar has experienced negative economic growth and diminished government revenues, undermining the political, social, and economic stability of the country. The United States intent is to support international efforts led by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) to ensure that the electoral process, which began with presidential elections in late 2013, is credible and leads to a restoration of democratic rule.