Surprisingly, after consulting legal experts His Majestys Government accepted the fact that Tibet was a separate state.
“… when Chinese troops marched into Tibet proper, we told the Tibetan Government that if they so chose, they could prefer appeal to UN. We could not, however, sponsor such an appeal, though we might support it generally. We cannot go back on our assurance and have, therefore, to support inclusion of proposal for consideration by UN.
…We cannot, consistently with previous declarations, support Tibetan claim to independence, though we can and should favour recognition of Tibetan autonomy. We should support appeal on broad ground that problem of Sino-Tibetan relations should be solved peacefully and not by resort to arms.”22
Nehru added a small sentence which speaks for itself: “Chinese Government has repeatedly expressed themselves in favour of Tibetan autonomy, but of course we do not know what their idea of autonomy is.”
But the Prime Minister had begun to have doubts, for in the same telegram to B.N. Rau,23 he replied: “We doubt whether a discussion of Tibetan problem in General Assembly or in Security Council will yield any useful result.”
The change in policy seemed to be due mainly to B.N. Rau. According to a telegram sent by Henderson to Acheson:
“¦ when Chinese troops marched into Tibet proper, we told the Tibetan Government that if they so chose, they could prefer appeal to UN. We could not, however, sponsor such an appeal, though we might support it generally.
“Apparently Rau was under impression that by not criticizing Communist China in UN re: Tibet he might play more helpful role in mediating between Communist China and western powers following arrival Communist Chinese delegates in Lake Success.”24
However, opinion was divided in India, as Henderson explained:
“There had been some sentiment among various members in the Indian cabinet opposing GOI taking any action in the UN. However overwhelming majority sentiment was regardless effect on India-China relations GOI could not afford take uninterested position re Tibet.”25
In an internal note on November 18, Nehru had written down his position:
“I think that in no event should we sponsor Tibet’s appeal. I would personally think that it would be a good thing if that appeal is not heard26 in the Security Council or the General Assembly. If it is considered there, there is bound to be a great deal of bitter speaking and accusation, which will worsen the situation as regards Tibet, as well as the possibility of widespread war, without helping it in the least. It must be remembered that neither the U.K. nor the U.S.A., nor indeed any other powers, is particularly interested in Tibet or the future of that country. What they are interested in, is embarrassing China. Our interest, on the other hand, is Tibet, and if we cannot serve that interest, we fail.”27
At that time, the Communist nations were lobbying for the inclusion of Beijing as a member of the UN and the Security Council.28 From New York Vijayalaksmi Pandit29 expressed “the Indian Government’s disquiet about the Communist military invasion of Tibet which might make it more difficult for the Peking Government to qualify as a ‘peace loving’ nation within the meaning of the Charter.”30
“I (Nehru) think that in no event should we sponsor Tibets appeal. I would personally think that it would be a good thing if that appeal is not heard in the Security Council or the General Assembly.”
Again and again, oblivious of India’s interests and security, the Indian diplomats worried about only one thing: the entry of Peking into the UN.
At Lake Success31 a procedural battle was going on: the Secretariat of the UN informed El Salvador that the Tibetan problem should first be brought to the General Committee which had to decide if the issue could or could not be referred to the General Assembly.
Castro, the Salvadorian representative proposed that the following Resolution should be passed by the General Assembly:
- To condemn this act of unprovoked aggression against Tibet;
- To establish a committee composed of (names of nations)… which will be entrusted with the study of the appropriate measures that could be taken.
- To instruct the committee to undertake that study with special reference to the appeal made to the United Nations by the Government of Tibet, and to render its report to the General Assembly, as early as possible, during the present session.32
In a cable to B.N. Rau, Nehru stated:
“Draft resolution of El Salvador completely ignores realities of situation and overlooks fact that only result of passing such a resolution will be to precipitate conquest of Tibet and destruction of Tibetan independence and perhaps even autonomy. We cannot possibly support it or even adopt merely negative attitude.”33
In the course of the negotiations in New York, most of the representatives indicated that India was the nation most concerned and that they would follow India’s lead.34
“ It must be remembered that neither the U.K. nor the U.S.A., nor indeed any other powers, is particularly interested in Tibet or the future of that country. What they are interested in, is embarrassing China.”
The logical outcome of the British Foreign Office legal cell’s opinion was that Tibet was a separate state and consequently an act of aggression had been committed. As a result pressures would have to be exerted by the community of nations to take an action in favour of Tibet. But, nobody wanted to act!
The telegram of the British Representative cabled to London concluded that: “I greatly hope therefore that I shall be instructed when and if the Indians raise this matter in the Security Council, to argue to the general effect that the legal situation is extremely obscure and that in any case Tibet cannot be considered as a fully independent country.”35
Because the British diplomats did not want to take action, the British Foreign office had to change its legal opinion on the status of Tibet!
At the same time, the American Government informed New Delhi that they were ready to help the Tibetans in ‘whatever means possible’, but in view of the geographical and historical factor, the main burden of the problem remained on India and India’s collaboration was more than necessary in any attempt to help the Tibetan Government.
While the British were struggling with legalities, Nehru was rejecting them: “We do not think that legal arguments will be helpful or that the Assembly should attempt more than appeal to the two parties to come to a peaceful settlement.”36