340. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Tibet


  • Mr. Gyalo Thondup
  • Dep. Under Secretary U Alexis Johnson
  • Amb. H. L. T. Koren, INR

Mr. Thondup said that the Indian attitude regarding the Tibetan question had changed, and, largely because of India’s new situation vis-a-vis Communist China, India was now being more forthcoming and helpful. However, the difficulty was that India was weak militarily and hard-pressed, and therefore, reluctant to be truly forthcoming. They were supporting, although not sponsoring, the human rights resolution on Tibet now before the General Assembly. What the Tibetans wanted was support in a political sense and to have a case made for their political freedom. For instance, when approached for support, the Afro-Asians asked what the Tibetans really gained from a resolution on human rights. The Afro-Asians felt that a political resolution looking to independence was what was needed, a resolution dealing with fundamental freedom for Tibet. However, the Indians were unwilling to take this step and the current resolution, which was first aimed at fundamental freedom, was watered down at their insistence to fundamental freedoms. Prime Minister Shastri and the majority of his ministers as well as the Indian people were for the Tibetan cause. But in their present situation, they were not ready to take a position of leadership. They needed to be urged by the U.S.

Therefore, Mr. Thondup wished to pass on to Mr. Johnson the Dalai Lama’s request that the U.S. re-examine its position and encourage India to take a political, rather than a purely humanitarian position regarding Tibet. Mr. Thondup went on to say that for Communist China Tibet was a weak spot militarily, spiritually, and morally. He felt that the U.S. had a right to ask for a stronger Indian position and hoped that Ambassador Bowles might take this up with Prime Minister Shastri. The near-term objective was to establish a government-in-exile under the Dalai Lama in India.

Mr. Johnson said that Taiwan posed something of a problem for us. It was not a question that Taiwan’s influence with us was strong, but it [Page 737] was a factor that we must consider. Mr. Thondup felt that the Nationalist Chinese should take a more progressive attitude, but in talking to them he found them difficult and hampered by a hundred years of tradition and the present dominance of the conservative group. The younger officials were not so hidebound, but the present Chi-Nat stance was that once they were back on the Mainland, they would support self-determination for Tibet. There followed a brief discussion of the status of Tibet in recent history, whether it had been, in fact really independent.

Mr. Thondup said, in summary, that in future efforts it was best to avoid the question of past independence and to rally support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people in their independence struggle. He made a strong plea for U.S. help as well as advice on how to pursue their goals. Mr. Johnson noted that the question of government-in-exile was somewhat difficult for us at the present time, because we had resisted all pressure for a Cuban Government-in-exile in this country. He promised to discuss Mr. Thondup’s plea with his colleagues who had been following Tibetan matters much more closely recently than he and we would pass our considered view to him, most likely through Ambassador Bowles.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 19 TIBET. Confidential. Drafted by Koren.