News and Views on Tibet

Opinion: Tibetan Passport – Once recognized by the world

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Tibetan passport of Tsepon Shakaba, a member of the Tibetan Trade delegation in 1948 (Photo/Tibet: A Political History)

By Ugyen Gyalpo 

In October of 1947, the Tibetan government decided to send Trade Delegation to India, the United Kingdom, the United States and China with their first ever issued Tibetan passports to their trade delegates. When the trade delegation reached India on their first stop, apart from meeting the various heads of government, they were deeply moved when Mahatma Gandhi asked them after being presented with the Tibetan ceremonial scarf (khatag) as to whether the scarf was “made in Tibet” When he was informed that the ceremonial scarves were imported (likely from China), Gandhi was surprised and stressed the importance of manufacturing in one’s own country the goods ones uses. Reiterating his stance on the Swadeshi movement that galvanized the whole of India to make products in India and Boycott everything coming from the British. By this time through his relentless campaign of Ahimsa and Swadeshi movements, India had already broken free from the yoke of the British colonialism. 

Today, fast forward to 2021, India from just being an independent country after two hundred years of colonialism back then has come a long way to establish themselves as one of the most influential countries of the world.

Tibet at the time of the trade delegation was a free independent country. They were on a mission and on a belated campaign to inform the world about Tibet’s sovereignty albeit too late. Even Mao led Chinese Communist Party was yet to be formed back then, but Tibet’s foolish insistence to remain aloof and isolated had already cost them its legal existence as an independent country in the eyes of the world.

While China was busy writing and selling history of Tibet in their own narrative along with their opium to intoxicate the world, Tibet was busy liberating itself from the cyclical realms of existence.

When the trade delegation had reached China on their second stop, the Chinese leaders had advised them not to go to the United Kingdom and the United States using the Tibetan passport. The trade delegates defying the advice of the Chinese travels to the western world using the Tibetan passport and they were not only given visas on the Tibetan passport and but also warmly welcomed by the dignitaries of the respective countries.

The issuance of visa by the western world on Tibetan passport further cemented the truth that countries like the U.K and the U.S. dealt with the Tibetan trade delegates as they would with the delegates of an independent country. On the trip to the United States the Tibetan trade delegates also negotiated about buying the U.S. gold bullion to insure and protect the security of the Tibetan currency.

This was a time after the Second World War when countries after countries were claiming independence. Sadly, Tibet was the only country, partly because of their political follies and how they ran the country in the interim between the thirteenth and the coronation of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, the political power struggle and infighting and also how the Tibetans chose to remain isolated, that they were sucked into the dark crevices of colonialism followed by when the nations of the world including Nehru led India were on the side-lines cheerleading our fall for their short term gain. 

From the time Gandhi made that moving comment about “Khatag” resonating with his campaign of Swadeshi, fast forward to 2021, China has become the factory and the exporter of the world. The boycott of Chinese goods is almost impossible given how deep they are embedded into the symbiosis of global economy. There is hardly anything these days that meets our eyes that can’t be avoided which are not made in China. A comment from Gandhi that probably moved our leaders, something that was relevant to the times but isn’t so much these days. 

When the fall of 1949 came and the Chinese communist regime had the full control of mainland China, Peking radio the mouthpiece of the CCP had declared that Tibet was a part of China and that the People’s Liberation Army was marching into Tibet to liberate the Tibetans from the foreign imperialist. But there was no foreign imperialist who controlled Tibet at all but the brazen imperialism of their lies upon which they build their narrative and case on Tibet. Liberation was a pretext to annex Tibet. But the question was liberation from whom? The Tibetan government strongly objected to the announcement and stated that Tibet and China always had priest and patron relationship and that Tibet was never part of China but to no avail. 

Curated and sourced from – Tibet: A Political History

(Views expressed are his own)

The author is a blogger at ‘The Roar of the Snow Lion’. He is a Tibetan living in Woodside, New York. 

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