The Dalai Lama’s involvement with the CIA and the Tibetan Guerrillas

Of all the lies that surround the Dalai Lama, surely the greatest is that he is a champion of non-violence. This aspect of the image that he likes to portray of himself and with which he has mesmerised the media and much of the world is actually just another part of the myth.

The truth of the matter is that from the mid-1950s through to the mid-1970s there was an active and violent Tibetan resistance movement that was funded by the CIA.297 Even the Dalai Lama’s notorious brother Gyalo Dondrup, who was the principal link between the Tibetan guerrillas and the CIA, called this ‘a very dirty business’.298 The question is, how involved was the Dalai Lama in this ‘very dirty business’?

In 1974, the Dalai Lama claimed: ‘The accusation of CIA aid has no truth behind it’.299 But gradually as more and more US State Department documents have been declassified he has been forced to admit the truth.

In 1999, discussing the early CIA operations involving his people, he said: ‘They gave the impression that once I arrived in India, great support would come from the United States.’300 The CIA provided $1.7 million dollars annually to train and support the guerrillas, including setting up training camps in the US (Camp Hale, Colorado) and elsewhere, flying the guerrillas there and parachuting them back into Tibet, and providing weapons, equipment and intelligence.301 The Dalai Lama himself received $180,000 annually to maintain himself in India, a grant for which he did not have to account.302

The reason for the Dalai Lama’s expectations could well be the letter sent to him by the United States ambassador to India, Loy Henderson, in 1951. Henderson was passing on a message from the State department that said, amongst other things:

‘The United States … is prepared to support resistance now and in the future against Communist aggression in Tibet, and to provide such material aid as may be feasible.’303

Indeed, as CIA documents uncovered under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, when the Dalai Lama did finally flee Tibet one of the first messages sent to Americans demanded an air-drop of substantial quantities of weapons:

‘Please inform the world about the suffering of the Tibetan people. To make us free from the misery of the Chinese Communist operations [you] must help us as soon as possible and send us weapons for 30,000 men by airplane.’304

The Dalai Lama has tried to conceal the level of the CIA’s involvement in Tibet and his own involvement with the CIA. Thomas Laird recounts how the Dalai Lama was apprehensive when he explained that he was to publish a book revealing when CIA activity began in Tibet:

‘The Dalai Lama worried aloud to me when I interviewed him for this book. He wondered if revealing the covert American presence in Tibet in 1950 would give the Chinese some excuse for their invasion. After all, when China invaded Tibet in 1950 it said its motivating reason was to halt the imperialist plots of American agents in Tibet. At the time, America denied that there were any American agents in Tibet prior to the invasion. Until now that denial has stood unchallenged. This book proves, for the first time, not only that there were Americans in Tibet, but that several agents, in and out of Tibet, worked actively to send military aid to the Tibetans prior to the Chinese invasion. It proves that the highest levels of the US government were involved in that planning – despite government denials ever since.’305

The Dalai Lama’s military intrigues are not limited to the CIA. In 1962, some of the Tibetan guerrillas became part of the Indian Army’s Special Frontier Forces with the intention that they would be dropped into Tibet to fight the Chinese. However the Indian Army instead deployed them to fight the war in East Pakistan. As the official website of the Tibetan guerrillas declares:

‘The SFF never had a chance of being used in operations against its intended enemy, Red China, but it was used against East Pakistan with the consent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1971.’306

Having been forced out of Tibet, the guerrillas set themselves up in Mustang, across the border in Nepal. For some time the Nepalese tolerated them ‘because it was the wish of the Dalai Lama’.307 But the guerrillas’ continued attacks on the Chinese army put greater and greater strain on the Nepalese government’s relationship with China, and eventually the Nepalese government decided to wipe out the guerrillas. Finally, in 1974, the Dalai Lama sent a recorded message to the guerrillas instructing them to surrender to the Nepalese.308

The CIA had previously ordered the guerrillas to stop their offensives against the Chinese, but they had ignored their US commanders.309 However, as soon as the Dalai Lama gave them the order, all but a handful handed over their weapons.310 If the Dalai Lama really wanted non-violent resistance, why did he wait until 1974 to give his message to the guerrillas – after nearly two decades of fighting during which thousands of Tibetans and Chinese had died in violent combat?