811.001 Truman, H. S./5–3146
The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in India (Merrell)
Sir: Reference is made to New Delhi’s despatches no. 616 of May 31, 1946, no. 869 of December 3, 1946,3 no. 913 and no. 915 of January 13, 1947 and no. 925 of January 22, 1947,4 all in regard to letters addressed by the Tibetan authorities to President Truman and the related question of a possible visit to Lhasa by a member of your staff. In these despatches the Department was urged to give consideration to the questions of the strategic importance of Tibet and the desirability of a noncommittal attitude with respect to the status of that area.
An officer of the Department has discussed with officers of the War Department’s Plans and Operations Division the question of Tibet’s strategic importance. They have stated informally that in their opinion that area would not readily lend itself to development as a base from which ground, air or rocket operations could be effectively launched. Moreover, from the standpoint of Sino-American relations, the Department feels that no useful purpose would be served at the present time by action likely to raise the question of our official attitude with respect to the status of Tibet. Specifically, the Department considers that a visit involving the degree of ostentation apparently envisaged in the reference despatches is likely to create misapprehension with respect to American intentions both among Tibetans and Chinese.
The Department nevertheless desires that the authorities and people of Tibet should regard the United States as friendly and well-disposed, and wishes to be kept informed of the more important trends and developments in that region. Accordingly, it is preparing for the President’s signature a reply,5 which may be forwarded from Delhi by readily available means of communication, to the letters of the Tibetan authorities. Moreover, it will be disposed to regard with favor, subject to the availability of personnel and travel funds, occasional visits to Tibetan areas by Foreign Service Officers. It is felt, however, that such visits should, under present circumstances, be unobtrusive and unofficial.
Very truly yours,