Memorandum by Mr. O. Edmund Clubb, of the Division of Chinese Affairs
Major Tolstoy’s memorandum of January 20, 194412 quotes British authorities in India as estimating that in a year’s time, with proper organization, there could be transportation from India to China via Tibet by means of pack animals of 4,000 tons per year; and he states that it is quite possible that 1,000 tons could be handled in the first year. Major Tolstoy informed me that the estimate of 1,000 tons is for cargo in addition to that now being moved. That the British estimate in question may be somewhat optimistic is indicated by the information submitted in Kunming’s despatch no. 12 of December 29, 1943,12 stating that during the current year approximately 5,000 mule loads, or 333 metric tons, of merchandise will have arrived in Likiang (Yunnan) from India by the Tibet route, and that many [Page 962]times that amount of goods are currently stored in Lhasa awaiting transshipment. The amounts which reach China through Sining and Kangting can hardly be more. It is to be remarked that transport by pack animal over the proposed route is obviously subject to stringent limitations in terms of amount of forage and pack animals available, and that any substantial shipment of OSS supplies would inevitably displace in some degree present shipments of consumer goods. It is understood, however, that the British Indian authorities; do not view with favor heavy export of consumer goods to China under present circumstances.
A supplementary memorandum of April 7, 194413 notes that, “if the Chinese Government is not made to realize the immediate advantage of the matter to the Allies’ war program [progress], it will use the project merely as an excuse to exercise stronger pressure on its existing demand to the Tibetan Government for a right-of-way for a road from China to India, via Jyekundo, purely for re-establishing; complete control over Tibet. Such action by the Central Government of China would most likely result in warfare between the two countries.” The Chungking authorities, seeing transportation of goods on OSS account via Tibet, would almost certainly desire (1) to have transport on Chinese account and (2) to exploit the situation for Chinese political ends. Major Tolstoy in that same supplementary memorandum stated that it was possible that, due to recent Allied setbacks in Burma, negotiations with Tibet regarding the matter might now be more difficult because of a possible revival of Tibetan fear of Japan with accompanying doubt among some of the Tibetan officials; of ultimate Allied victory.
The possible economic or military benefits of transportation of goods-from India to China via the long route over Tibet would be subject to obvious limitations. Note that the transport is based on pack-animal trips 6–8 months in duration. It is to be deduced that China’s interest in the project is primarily political for so long as Chungking remains desirous of opening that route and at the same time does not make use of existing pack-animal facilities for transport over the two routes from Gilgit and Ladakh (Leh) into south Sinkiang: the last-named routes are shorter in respect to that part of the trip requiring transport by pack animal, but up to the present time the Chinese have shown little interest in utilization of such routes, excepting as they might be developed for motor transport (the Chinese prefer the Gilgit route—again possibly for political reasons). It is observed in this general connection that there exists substantial probability that in due course the Japanese will embark upon a major campaign to eliminate Chungking and Kunming as enemy flanking positions, and [Page 963]that before the proposed route could be put into effective operation either (1) it would have become useless by reason of Japanese presence on its eastern terminal or (2) it would become no longer necessary by virtue of United Nations’ successes leading to the opening up of more economic routes to China.
The possible importance of Tibet in relation to the United Nations is not to be disregarded. It is suggested that it might be found desirable to make arrangements in due course, if feasible, for the purchase and shipment to the United States of Tibetan wool and possibly of other Tibetan products; that, in exchange, the Tibetans would probably be glad to receive certain needed supplies of American medicines and other American products; and that, eventually it might be considered expedient to endeavor to station an American representative in Tibet. Whether there should be undertaken at this time any project of a major character is problematical. In any event, any arrangements which might be undertaken should be made with primary reference to and in accordance with the wishes of the Tibetan authorities themselves; and any approach to those authorities should be made only with the prior knowledge and acquiescence of the Indian and Chinese Governments.
It is felt that any action which the United States might take in this general connection should be designed carefully to avoid United States involvement in international politics respecting the status of Tibet.