Sunday, June 8, 2014

When Tibet was invaded

Harishwar Dayal at the Residence in Gangtok
In case Mr. Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister who is visiting Delhi today, asks too many questions about the presence of Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan Prime Minister at the swearing ceremony of the Narendra Modi Government, he should be reminded that Tibet was a 'fully autonomous' country (verging independence in Nehru's words) when the Chinese invaded it in October/November 1950. 
Here is a letter from the Indian Trade Agent in Gyantse to the Political Officer in Sikkim.
The latter, deputed from the Ministry of External Affairs was responsible for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet; the former was on deputation from the Indian Army (Maratha Light Infantry). Both officers are first-hand witnesses of the tragic events.
In the letter, one Tibetan (Phala-Se) raises an interesting question: would it had been better for the Tibetans if the British had remained in Tibet after the 1904 Younghusband expedition?
Countries, like India, which were once occupied by the British acceded to independence in 1947.
Unfortunately history can't be anyway be rewritten.

[From Capt. S.M. Krishnatry,
Indian Trade Agent in Gyantse
To Harishwar Dayal, ICS
Political Officer in Sikkim]
Gyantse, 1st November 1950

My dear Dayal,

Many thanks for yours of 23rd from Paro [Bhutan]. It was pleasing to know that you are well into the picture. Recent news over the radio were still worse. An invading force of 50,000 is marching in 2 columns towards Lhasa, and Shigatse. Shobande and Lhodong have been captured and they are now 250 miles from Lhasa, i.e. about 15 days that march. Officially I am not aware of any such news from anywhere. However I presume the radio reports are correct. The rumor about the capture of Chiamdo [Chamdo] is already rife in Gyantse. Apart from that I hear that the DL [Dalai Lama] refused National Assembly’s request to flee to India, and the Gods who were consulted agreed with this decision.
I have ordered the escorts and my staff to be security minded and alert and the above news are only known to me and a few others as I have imposed a news blackout by restricting the use of radio, etc. I am also trying to get about 4 months of reserve of fodder, sheep, firewood and other items of local supplies for all of us, if possible.
I am also taking steps to secure defense and safety of the agency and staff etc. On my advice [Brig.] Mithare has already ordered the party of troops that had left for India to report back, and further thinning of the escorts has been stopped. Strength here is about seventy, enough I think; more will only add to our problems of supply and accommodation. I am not so much bothering about Yatung, so it upto you and you and R.R. [?] Sonam can appreciate the situation. C.G. [Consul General, S. Sinha] is keen on getting at least on 3’’ mortar with 1000 rounds and some more 2’’ mortar ammunition. In case the local supplies fail we might have to ask the military authorities to send any extra quantity of food rations to feed escorts and perhaps also my staff. They may arrange to escort all this from India or air-drop it!
I have worked up all this on presumption, that though there is no chance apparently, of Chinese communist attacking us or our mission in Lhasa, it is possible that during the chase the armed Tibetans might try to loot us or might be engineered to attack and harass us to drive us out, by making it too hot for us. I think these arrangements will ensure safety against goonda element or a small irregular force only. Against an attack by a larger and regular force we shall need reinforcements from India; the alternative would be to flee to avoid disaster. I think it might be useful to acquaint the military authorities or the ministry with these possibilities.
At the moment our one great problem is quick communications. The telegraph line to Lhasa and Gangtok has been out of order for the last 5-6 days. I shall be grateful if you and [Lhasa] Mission also make out a schedule with Gyantse and inform me of the frequencies, etc. The wireless set here, I believe, is workable and we can certainly duplicate communication with Lhasa at least at any rate. Actually it might be useful to ask the military authorities to establish, in Gyantse, a new wireless set manned by fresh and experiences hands from India. I don’t know whether mail drivers and mails will be safe; if not the only way seems to be to arm them, which on the other hand sounds a bit odd and vain. I don’t think we can quite secure the dak [postal] bungalows, etc. against any hostile action, except perhaps by emptying of all crockery, cutlery, etc and leaving the remainder to their fate.
Safety of our posts and maintenance of local supplies etc is possible to some extent through diplomatic channels with the existing authority. Steps towards that may be taken now, if Lhasa is to fall in 15 days or a month.
As regards excitement in Shigatse or Gyantse, I am sure the Tashilhunpo crowd will receive the invader with open arms. They are quiet fed up on the whole with Lhasa Govt’s security measures. I understand that they have been looked upon with great suspicion and disfavor. Machine guns and armed posts were establishes around the monastery, and quite a number of monks, having already deserted from time to time, are alleged to have joined the invader in Kham etc. The rich are extremely worried. Phala-Se last night came to me rather gloomy and depressed. In desperation, he even said that it would have been better if the [British] had captured Tibet in 1904; for in that case they would also have become independent as part of India in 1947. T.T.A [Tibetan Trade Agent], he and other however, even now quite ignorant of developments are inclined to discredit all rumors. They are too busy trying to make the best out of the high price of wool.
In case Mission having to evacuate from Lhasa, I trust I would be immediately informed. From military point of view, and also perhaps political, it would not be possible to station a few troops in Lhasa, but they may be sent up to escort the mission upto Gyantse, if at all necessary.
Do you think, it would be all right if we give shelter to any important Tibetan or Tibetans, in case a request is made? I might have to face this situation as well. In buying reserves of fodder, etc we may have to spend over and above the sanctioned grant. I hope we would be permitted to re-appropriate our authorized funds for this if necessary. Moreover if prices are sore high, we shall definitely have to over-spend. There is no reply to your letter from the currency officer. We are in a hurry, to replenish our treasury.
Tibetans are concluding their training tomorrow. I felt on my arrival in Gyantse that the CG’s [Consul General] plan and progress were much too slow; but the sanction from Lhasa for 4 months duration shut me up.
By the way, that telegram to China and its non-acceptance by the acting inexperienced postmaster, was not even referred to me by anyone. I have taken steps to ensure that such omissions will not be made in future. It was addressed to some Mao-TRE-SHI [Mao Tru Shi or Chairman Mao in Chinese] (probably MAO TSE TUNG) and contained 330 groups [?] costing 101/- It is still awaiting clearance due to breached line. E.S.T. does not seem to have liked the colour of my eyes!
I am sure your Bhutan tour has been most useful. I heard about the death of Mrs Lholing Se. Rather sad. I understand she was telling everyone that she would not survive this delivery and would certainly die.
Best wishes to you both.
Yours sincerely

[Capt. S.M. Krishnatry
Indian Trade Agent, Gyantse (Tibet)]

No comments: