The Chargé in India (Donovan) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 14, 1948.]
Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram to the Embassy No. 812, December 26, and to the Embassy’s recent despatches on the [Page 605] subject of the Tibetan Trade Mission,* I have the honor to transmit for the information of the Department a memorandum of a conversation between officers of the Embassy and members of the Tibetan Trade Mission which called at the Embassy today.
As the Embassy has indicated in earlier reports, the Tibetan Trade Mission has no very definite plans for increasing trade between Tibet and the United States, but is clearly interested in purchasing gold and silver. In the course of the conversation under reference Tsepon Shakabpa, leader of the delegation, stated that they wished to buy gold and silver for the Tibetan Government, and when asked whether this was to be used as backing for their currency, replied in the affirmative. As the Department is aware, two questions arise in connection with the Mission’s desire to purchase gold and silver: (a) Will they be able to obtain the necessary dollars from the Government of India? and (b) Will their intended purchases, in view of the provisions of the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, be regarded by our Government as purchases on a foreign government account? If the Mission obtains enough dollars from the Government of India to purchase gold and silver in the United States, our Government will presumably be faced with the problem of deciding to what extent the Tibetan Government may be regarded as autonomous.
As is indicated in the enclosed memorandum, there is reason to doubt that the Government of India will grant any substantial amount of dollars to the Mission. This has been insinuated in remarks made to an officer of the Embassy both by an official of the Ministry of External Affairs and by the Government of India representative in Gangtok.
Another point which the Embassy wishes to call to the attention of the Department, and of the Embassy at Nanking and the Consulate General in Shanghai, is the fact that Tsepon Shakabpa stated that since in the past a certain amount of trade had been carried on between Japan and Tibet, the members of the Mission hoped to visit Japan en route to the United States. They were told that since they planned to visit China en route to the United States it would be advisable to inquire at the Consulate General in Shanghai or the Embassy in Nanking regarding formalities connected with visits to Japan.
The Chinese Embassy has not raised the question of visas for the Tibetans with this Embassy since the occasion of the Counselor’s call reported in the Embassy’s telegram to the Department No. 1146 dated December 22. That the Government of India does not look with favor [Page 606] on the possibility of Chinese interference with the proposed trip of the Mission was indicated by the fact that an official of the Ministry of External Affairs remarked to an officer of the Embassy on December 28 that members of the Mission were anxious to call on various foreign missions in Delhi; that he hoped this Embassy would be able to receive them soon; and—smilingly—that it was quite unnecessary for the Ministry of External Affairs to encourage the Chinese Embassy to get in touch with the Tibetan Mission.
As has been indicated in earlier communications, the importance of the Tibetan Trade Mission’s visit from a purely commercial point of view will be small, but a friendly reception in the United States may go a long way toward strengthening relations with a government which controls a large and strategic area bordering on territory where Soviet influence is widespread.†
- No. 100, August 1, 1947, “Tibetan Trade Mission: Plans for Washington Visit; Political Background”. No. 142, August 21, 1947, “Additional Background on Tibetan Trade Mission; Questions Regarding Policy Toward Tibet”. No. 353, November 21, 1947, “Particulars Regarding Members of Tibetan Trade Mission”. [Footnote in the original.]↩
- Despatch No. 869, December 3, 1946, “Policy on Status of Tibet: Desirability of Continuing Noncommittal Attitude”. Despatch No. 913, January 13, 1947, “Letters to the President from the Dalai Lama, the Regent, and the Kashag of Tibet; Political and Strategic Considerations Pointing to Desirability of Returning Courtesy Visit to Tibetan Goodwill Mission”. [Footnote in the original; despatch No. 869 not printed.]↩