Introduction: Tibet is now on the agenda of the
current session of the General Assembly at the United
Nations. Contrary to the warnings of the prophets of gloom,
as a cause it has refused to die. It has broken through the
shackles of being merely a case of violation of human
rights, and is now restored to a political issue; and in its
candid note to the Chinese Government, published in October,
the Indian Government created history by referring to the
Chinese military presence in Tibet as an invasion.
With these currents of a change afoot, it was deemed
essential to take steps towards revising our thinking on
Tibet, and to search out new policies that would more
adequately give effect to these new winds of change. In this
context the Tibet Swaraj Committee decided to hold a
Roundtable, to discuss A New Policy for Tibet, as the first
of several meetings to chalk out a composite programme for
this new orientation.
The character of this first roundtable has been
exploratory and definitive- searching out and clarifying
areas and trends of change. The basis of the whole
discussion has been the affirmation of independent Tibet as
a true and sovereign nation.
Dr. G. K.
to 1952 I worked at the Historical Division when I
studied the problem with a certain amount of
personal interest. There were very few documents on
Tibet available at that time because most of them
had been taken away by the British, when they left
India. Of course today there is much more literature
than was available at that time. The government as
you know at that time decided to accede to the
Chinese request for the integration of Tibet into
China, but the current government thinking has
talked of an ‘Invasion of Tibet’. One thing is
however clear. The Tibet issue is not finally solved
and it is one of the problems that will occur again
and again, and we will have to tackle it again
sooner or later.
It is no
longer possible to speak of a Communist bloc. There
are many centres of power within the Communist
world. Peking is one such Communist centre of power,
and it is regarded as the power centre in
Communist Asia. It cannot tolerate even the
suspicion of any other power centre and immediately
moves in to defend its status whenever the
possibility of a challenge occurs. Moreover, China
has power ambitions in Europe which cut across
Communist and non-Communist lines. These provide us
with situations which we can exploit.
However this attitude is wrong. There is more
than one power centre in Communist Asia. For India
not to recognise this is to hold China to be more
powerful that she really is.
Then there is the question of ideology. In spite
of all they do, the Communists are hampered by their
doctrines, of Marxism, Leninism, Maoism etc. and all
their various combinations. They are always under a
compulsion to keep up the doctrinal myth.
International experts on Communism are agreed that
Communism breeds in-fighting due to this doctrinal
compulsion. Whereas it is not possible for India to
originate a conflict within the members of the
Chinese Communist circle, it can always take
advantage and exacerbate those that already exist.
In the non-Han areas the linguistic minorities
are a growing headache for China; this phenomenon of
the search for self-consciousness of minority groups
is part of a world process, and one which India will
also have to face, for example, in relation to the
Nagas and Sikhs. The Tibetans are highly
self-conscious people, and China is finding it
difficult to eradicate their individuality. There
are growing doubts in China itself regarding the
wisdom of their policy of destroying the culture of
Tibet. The cultural problem is a crucial one. The
intellectuals in Tibet must be having problems. Just
now China is making much of the PLA. But at some
stage she will have to recognise the Communist Party
of Tibet, and then the intellectual problems will be
on the increase. Cultural policy has always been a
source of great difficulties for Communist rulers in
Europe as well as Asia. In these circumstances a
massive effort by Tibetans in exile with Indian help
could help maintain the ferment in Tibet, and
sharpen the conflict between national interest and
Communist ideology. The Indo-Tibet border is far
from sealed, and it could be used to smuggle reading
material into Tibet, or it could be dropped through
the air. A high power broadcasting station would be
of great help in maintaining cultural resistance by
the Tibetans. Lastly, the Tibetans in India could be
organised, the intellectuals among them, to work
towards the obstruction of the Chinese political
Constitution-making is an important
business in all Communist countries. The ruling
elite in Peking is subject to considerable pressure
by Chinese revisionists and after Mao-tse-tung,
there is bound to be an intellectual upheaval, which
will create pressure to revise the constitution. In
this context the need for some work on the Tibetan
Constitution can be emphasised. There is no need to
be cynical about the practical consequences of such
work. There are many aspects to be discussed, the
abolition of the so-called feudal system, the
guarantees of civil and individual liberties etc.
There is considerable scope for new ideas in all
Communist countries where the intellectuals feel
quite distant from the ruling elite. The Communists
are most vulnerable in this area. India can create a
major political asset for itself by introducing into
Sino-Indian political conflict constitutional
questions in the context of Tibet’s future. Tibetans
in exile should be encouraged to think in terms of a
constitution for their country in which there is
ample scope for the encouragement of rapid economic
advance, social and economic rights and democratic
The military question is very important.
Tibet has importance in the context of Disarmament
and Arms Control which has not been fully
appreciated in India so far. There is a good case
for a detailed study of the matter by military and
political experts. To quote what one of them, Oscar
Morgenstern has to say: ‘Tests might be made
secretly……in Tibet, where the prevalence of
earthquakes makes a distinction between these and
secret tests entirely impossible.’ The Indian
Government should immediately take up a study by its
experts on what measures are necessary for
preventing the military use if Tibet by China in the
context of future nuclear development. Indian policy
should encourage the development of the Tibetan
question on the lines on which the Austrian question
was kept up by the Western powers. Endless patience
is necessary. We should remind the Chinese in every
note that we send to them that the Tibetan issue is
and will remain an outstanding international issue
till the present Chinese policy is changed.
Then there is the question of military
assistance. This has been a great failure on our
part .we must review this policy of arms embargo.
There are still revolutionary forces operating in
the Kham region of Tibet, and we should at least
initiate the policy by sending through private
agencies non-military supplies like medicines etc.
The intensification of India’s relations with
other Buddhist countries in Asia will have a relay
effect on China’s relations with Tibet. The extent
to which India connects itself with a Buddhist
renaissance in which the initiative is retained in
Indian hands will pose a grave dilemma for the
Chinese. Unfortunately India is not fully utilising
its tremendous intellectual power in the
manner in which, for example France under De Gaulle
has mobilised its resources to exploit its
relationships with countries under French cultural
will never be able to consolidate their hold in
Tibet- the Tibetans will continue to resist. They
will put pressure in international circles to revive
the question: India will have to do it.
works, Tibet is not referred to as the ‘Tibet region
of China’. There are many classical studies from
Russia on Tibet, indicative of a change in
attitude…The cultural offensive mentioned is very
important; the Chinese used it in Mongolia. The
Russians had forbidden use of national script; when
the Chinese came, they brought 2,000 copies of the
biography of Chingiz Khan in the national script,
and it was sold in two hours. Now the Academy of
Sciences has permission to use the national script.
I am broadly
in agreement with what Dr. Sondhi has proposed. The
Tibetan issue is far from closed, and will not be
solved till either of two conditions are fulfilled :
1. Tibet becomes independent again or
2. The Tibetan people are really swamped by Han
So far as the present situation is concerned, the
Han settlement has not been a success. Most of the
Chinese have returned, due to difficulties with
regard to food and climate. This is an important
development and we should not fail to take note of
Tibet is a nation by every definition of the
word. It has long history, and the Tibetans are
acutely self-conscious of their separate and
distinct identity. The Chinese occupation of Tibet
in the past has never lasted longer than a decade or
two. The arrival of the nuclear age makes Tibet an
important issue. If the Chinese develop nuclear
missiles and place them in Tibet, this will have
grave consequences for us in terms of our
security…Our performance in Tibet is one of which we
must be ashamed. We owe the Tibetans a tremendous
debt, and there is no escape from it. There is much
that can be disclosed to our discredit. Our policy
of expediency has failed.
If we had spent ten crores a year on Tibet, it
would have sufficed to stall the consolidation of
Chinese rule in Tibet…To blame anybody else is a
case of the pot calling the kettle black. Till the
year before last we even refused to support the case
of Tibet in respect of Human Rights in UN. It would
be premature to say, with regard to the present
shift in our stance, whether it is a change in
content or posture. Now India has officially held
China guilty of having invaded Tibet. Perhaps the
change is a result of greater confidence in our
ability to defend our frontiers.
…If we do not take certain risks now, we will
expose ourselves to impossible risks 20 years from
now…the Chinese will be able to act with impunity
once their nuclear missile programme makes
sufficient headway and our defence commitments will
Even fairly intelligent persons in India with
interest in Tibet do not have adequate information.
The government expounds its policies in a vacuum,
and does not make available the facts on which its
policies are based. This is particularly true in the
field of defence. In military affairs the depth of
our ignorance is colossal. No newspaper can comment
with any knowledge on military affairs, unlike his
counterparts in Western countries.
…To discover Tibet is to discover India. We must
all do what we can, independently, to promote the
presentation of Tibetan culture, which is also part
of our culture.
One point of
clarification: you have said that our ability to do
anything in Tibet turns on our ability to defend our
frontiers. Do you mean by this that our frontiers
are more vulnerable than those of other countries?
There is another idea of strength, of the potential
to increase the effectiveness of our influence, a
capacity to instil fear into our enemies, which
covers more than mere geographical location.
Yes, that is
an important distinction, and I agree that to cut
the Sinkiang-Tibet road would be a strategically
good exchange for a road into NEFA. What I meant was
that if our frontiers were fairly adequately
protected, it would give us greater confidence, in
contrast to the helplessness we have experienced
Government of India did not think that Tibet would
be assimilated into China; it believed in the
Chinese guarantee of an autonomous region; it was
not been translated into practice, and this latest
move of the government’s may be due to the discovery
that Tibet is now a part of China. It is now trying
to adopt a new line.
always been a critic of government’s Tibet policy. I
agree with all that has been said here on the
matter, and do not wish to repeat it. One thing
needs to be understood by the government and the
people, and that is the phenomenon of the cultural
infiltration by Tibet. Tibet has infiltrated our
borders; in Ladakh and Lahaul Valley, for instance,
the people use the Tibetan script, their language
has ties and links with Tibet. Lahaul and Ladakh
have cultural and language links with Tibet. A
political officer-in-charge of Tibetan affairs once
said to me, that you can not save the border areas
if the Chinese policy of Sinification in Tibet
succeeds. In the upper reaches of the Himalayas, the
people are Buddhist and racially akin to Tibetan-
e.g. in Himachal Pradesh, Pathoragarh, Sikkim,
Bhutan, NEFA and Ladakh.
…The history of Tibet reaches back 2500 years.
From the beginning Chinese influence has been
temporary, and the first time they entered Tibet was
at the invitation of the Dalai Lama in 1707.
According to Tibetan sources the first king of Tibet
was the son of Prasangjit of Kosala and a
contemporary of the Buddha. From then on there has
always been considerable Indian influence in Tibet.
The Tibetans, however, have always resisted Chinese
influence. The British contact with Tibet started
with Warren Hastings (sic) when the British wished
to start trade with Tibet. The Tibetans refused to
honour the treaties signed between the British and
the Chinese, so the British were finally forced to
negotiate directly with them.
In 1904, there was the Lhasa Convention, which
contained 4 terms defining the relations between
Dalai Lama’s Government and the British Indian
Government. In these terms one may clearly see the
Tibetan Lama is head of an independent state. In
1907, an Anglo-Russian treaty was signed, in which
it was stated that Tibet was under Chinese
suzerainty. This was a purely political affectation,
because at that time the British had no fear of
China and they wished to avoid the Russian charge of
having brought Tibet under their influence. In 1914,
the Shimla Convention was held to settle the
Tibet-China border about which there was some
dispute…Representatives of all the three countries
met as equals. The Tibetans brought mule loads of
documents to prove their claims, but the Chinese
just refused to accept them.
educate public opinion. The idea that Tibet was an
independent country which has been overrun is an
idea that must be kept alive.
If we can
develop a more meaningful policy for Tibet other
countries will change their attitudes towards us,
since India will then have defined interests.
mentioned in his book that at one time, the Chinese were
mortally afraid that Nepal might attack them, and he (Panniker)
had to assure them that there was no such possibility.
What would you say about this, Mr. Jain?
invaded Tibet a fortnight before they entered Korea,
which shows that the two were connected for them. On
October 25th 1950, they made advances
into Tibet and then stopped. The military presence
was of a nominal nature; it was used as pressure to
get the Tibetans in Peking to negotiate. At that
time, even intervention by Nepal would have tipped
We must not
over-estimate the capacity of the Chinese. They are
certainly not as efficient as we make them out to
be. Khrushchev was no god that he became an
anti-Stalinist, but used his position as a leverage
for power. There is always an element of caution in
Communist methods so that the policies of
extermination are not carried out completely
efficiently unlike the programme executed by the
In Communist theory they prefer a civil
government. One day they will have to recognise a
Tibetan Communist Party. The Indian Communist Party
is basically an inefficient administrative system.
The Left is fighting the Right. Most Communist
movements are experiencing this type of in-fighting.
Once a Communist becomes a nationalist, he
undermines the whole system.
many such cases in the West also such a Wolfgang
Leonhard for example. He was brought up by a
Communist mother in Russia, and received his
training as a Party Executive there. However, his
nationalism proved too strong, and he escaped from
Russia, then from East Germany; now he is resident
in West Germany and is one of the strongest critics
of the Communist regime.
As a brain
washing system, Communism has failed. Any comparison
with religion is entirely bogus.
impossible for Tibet to be swamped by Han
immigration. If the Chinese were to make a success
of it there, they would have to be motivated by an
economic need to be richer than the Americans.
Professor Lattimore has said that Tibet yields
diminishing returns to any imperialism which tries
to conquer it. And Communism has failed to find a
solution to the food problem.
However, I endorse Mr. Jain’s view that we must
wake up to the time aspect of the problem ,and that
the critical period is 5-10 years from now, during
which we can do something.
Now let us
bring this discussion to a practical conclusion.
There are three ways in which we can give effect to
1. We must keep the movement for Tibetan
2. We must undertake that the Tibet question be
brought before the United Nations.
3. We should organise these seminars as often as
we can that we may draw up a programme of action.
We hope we shall meet very soon again, and draw
up a programme of action.
Resolutions of this Seminar
should recognise the Government of the Dalai Lama as a
Government in exile.
Dalai Lama should be given travel and broadcasting
facilities both at home and abroad.
should sponsor the Tibetan issue at the United Nations.
material assistance should be extended to the Tibetan
should demand international inspection for possible
nuclear weapons site in Tibet.
and Tibetans should initiate a discussion on a
democratic constitution for Tibet.
with the help of Tibetans in India, should launch a
cultural offensive against Chinese-occupied Tibet.