The British Embassy to the Department of State 9

Copy of a Telegram From the Foreign Office Dated the 15th August, 1942

Government of India have been informed by the Chinese Commissioner there that the Chinese Government have accepted Tibetan stipulations in regard to the despatch of “non-military supplies” (which would include petroleum, but not arms, ammunition and explosives); that they have selected the Gyalam as the supply route with Batang as delivery point; and that they appeared to think that contract with Tibetan transport firm must be negotiated by special representative of the Ministry of Communications.

The above, taken along with the Chinese attitude towards the suggested formal declaration of Tibetan autonomy, which His Majesty’s Ambassador at Chungking has been informed “would present numerous difficulties”, and their proposal to station Ministry of Communications experts to organise the service along the Tibetan section of the route, would seem to indicate that the Chinese are more anxious to extend their influence in Eastern Tibet than to obtain supplies which in any event they do not estimate at more than a maximum of 3,000 tons a year. Nevertheless we are pursuing organisation of the route and have decided not to press for the declaration suggested. Our attitude of support for Tibetan autonomy still stands and we propose to continue to consult the Tibetan Government as and when necessary regarding detailed arrangements necessary in respect of the Tibetan section. In particular the Chinese proposal to appoint supervisors appears unnecessary, apart from the political objections involved, and it has been suggested to the Chinese Commissioner that any difficulties which might arise could be solved by joint intervention by the British and Chinese representatives at Lhassa.
The present position is that the Tibetan Government have now agreed during the current year only to the despatch from India for China of non-military supplies, preferably via the Changlam to Jye-kundo, avoiding Lhassa, and as they cannot undertake to handle transport themselves they suggest that a contract should be made with a Tibetan firm for this year only. As regards the appointment of Chinese technicians or experts, no such request has, they state, been received from the Chinese representative at Lhassa and if made will be refused, since in the Tibetan Government’s view neither British nor Chinese supervisors should travel up and down the supply route in Tibetan territory.
The time limit need not perhaps be taken too seriously. The main thing is to get supplies moving along this route and it should be possible to stipulate for the contract made with the Tibetan transport firm to run for one year with the option of renewal. The Chinese Government have now been asked to agree (a) to the selection of the Changlam as the main route and of Jyekundo as the delivery point, and to the stationing of a British representative at the latter place; (b) to dispense with liaison officers or supervisors; and (c) to delegation of authority to the British and Chinese representatives at Lhassa to negotiate a contract with Tibetan carriers.

[In a memorandum dated September 15, 1942, the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton) made the following comment: “It will be recalled that on July 21, 1942, Mr. Hayter of the British Embassy was informed orally and in strict confidence by Mr. Smyth of FE that suzerainty over Tibet has long been claimed by the Chinese Government, that Tibet is listed in the Chinese constitution among areas constituting the territory of the Republic of China, and that this Government has at no time raised question concerning either of these claims. (See endorsement on attached FE memorandum of July 18, 1942.) It is accordingly believed that we need make no comment to the British Embassy at the present time with regard to the attitude of the British Foreign Office on the subject of Tibetan autonomy.” 893.24/1445a]

  1. Handed to the Assistant Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Smyth) by the Second Secretary of the British Embassy (Barclay) on August 27.