893.00 Tibet/5–2149

The Ambassador in India (Henderson) to the Secretary of State

No. 420

Subject: Transmission of Memoranda of Conversation with Indian External Affairs Officials Regarding Tibet

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch no. 250 of March 23, 194911 entitled “Report on Buddhist Areas on India’s Northern Frontier with Particular Reference to Tibet” and to enclose memoranda11 describing conversations between officials in the Ministry [Page 1074]of External Affairs dealing with Tibetan affairs and an officer of the Embassy.

It will be observed from these memoranda that one of the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs stated that when the United Kingdom informed the Government of India that it desired to send a mission to Lhasa this summer, the latter Government indicated that it would be advisable to postpone the despatch of such a mission until next year. This statement has been confirmed by an official in the United Kingdom High Commissioner’s Office, who informed an Embassy officer that the Indians had asked the United Kingdom Government not to send a mission to Lhasa this year. He went on to say that the real basis for the Indian objections stemmed from the fact that the Indian Political Officer in Sikkim was planning a trip to Lhasa this summer and that the presence of a British mission in Lhasa at the same time would detract from the importance of the Political Officer’s visit.

The most surprising statement made by either of the two officials was that made by the Maharajkumar of Tehri-Garhwal, an Under Secretary in the Ministry, regarding the determination of the Indian Government to resist, by force if necessary, any attempt by the Chinese to re-establish control over Tibet. The Maharajkumar stated categorically that, if the Chinese tried to invade Tibet, they would find themselves opposed by Indian military forces. He also said that a motor road was being constructed from the road-head in Sikkim to Lhasa and that Indian Army officers were training the Tibetan Army.

While the Embassy has no reason to believe that the Maharajkumar’s statement that India would oppose Chinese aggression against Tibet by force was not made in good faith, it is not convinced that policy outlined by him represents the considered views of the Prime Minister13 or other members of the Indian Cabinet. It is true that the policy of British Government of India was to strive to prevent any major power from controlling Tibet and that, in the time which has elapsed since Indian independence, the Indian Government’s policy towards Tibet has tended to fall into the grooves already marked out by the British. Nevertheless, the obstacle with which the Indian Government would be confronted in obtaining support for such far-flung military operations from a people imbued with the Gandhian principles of pacifism, the logistic difficulties in the way of such operations, the incalculable consequences of an Indian military challenge to Communist forces in Southeast Asia, and the failure of Indian Government leaders to acquaint the Indian people with the threat of world Communism all incline the Embassy not to accept the statements of the External Affairs official as a definitive exposition of Indian policy [Page 1075]towards Tibet, at least until such time as confirmation from other sources can be obtained.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Howard Donovan

Counselor of Embassy
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.