893.00 Tibet/11–2349: Telegram

The Chargé in India (Donovan) to the Secretary of State

1451. UK office has received sealed communication from Tibetan Foreign Bureau addressed to Foreign Secretary26 which is presumed to contain letters similar to those reported in Embtel 1437, November 21.

Although member UK office claims no guidance re Tibet yet received from FonOff, he believes following summary of tentative views reached by British here in talks with Stevenson,27 in Delhi last week likely to coincide with thinking in London.

1.
While no doubt Tibetans viewing situation from within country and in full knowledge their helplessness are genuinely apprehensive of early incursion of Communists, UK can give greater weight other factors. Stevenson believed Chinese Communists would not for some considerable time wish to face cost and difficulty of mounting expedition into Tibet, where no great material advantage was to be derived. Unless question of face raised by Tibetan assertions of formal independence or by injudicious acts of propaganda of anti-Communist powers, Communists might well prefer leave Tibet alone. British inclined feel danger gradual infiltration Communists and weakening of Tibet from within greater than that of incursion of Communist troops.
2.
British point out Tibetans should be helped to realize threat invasion not necessarily so imminent as they seem believe. Tibetans should further be dissuaded from provocative action such as proclaiming independence (as they have in fact already done in recent letter to Mao Tse-tung) and from pressing claims to portions Inner Tibet (to east of boundary near Chamdo28 and Jyekundo29) which have probably already been overrun by Communists. From this viewpoint it regrettable they have expelled Chinese mission Lhasa on pretext they were Communists not only because this somewhat provocative but also because it increased incentive Communists assert Chinese right to maintain mission at Lhasa.
3.
At same time efforts should be made bolster courage of Tibetans who never offered effective resistance earlier Chinese expeditions. Their wishes receive additional small arms including mortars might be considered this connection. Old British policy of recognizing Chinese suzerainty but facilitating exercise Tibetan autonomy applicable to present situation and should probably be pushed harder than ever. This would involve dissuading GoI from tendency write Tibet off.
4.
If situation did not develop as expected and threat of imminent Chinese incursion developed, there were still various possibilities open [Page 1085]to India and other powers which might have effect of deterring Communists. Quiet dispatch of sizeable contingent troops to Sikkim border might for instance give pause to Chinese. Latter would not know intentions GoI and degree of support it had from UK and others. Dangers this course and undesirability misleading Tibetans into expecting effective military aid would, however, require very careful consideration.
5.
From longer term standpoint, British feel careful assessment actual importance Tibet is required. Re this, Nepal’s relations with Tibet and absence barriers between southern Nepal and India are important factors. (Embtel 1449, November 22).

British claim to have no information as to whether Dayal, Indian political agent Sikkim who is now returning to Delhi from Lhasa, engaged in negotiations as well as fact-finding. They think GoI will defer policy decisions on Tibet until his (arrival. In course discussion UK officer remarked on handicap of no longer being able talk to Tibetans directly at Lhasa. British evidently fear GoI will not be effective proponent of traditional policy of British Indian Government there.

Sent Department 1451, Department pass London.

Donovan
  1. Ernest Bevin.
  2. Sir Ralph Stevenson, British Ambassador to China.
  3. Changtu, Sikang.
  4. Yushu, Tsinghai.