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The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) Tibetan program was a covert operation during the Cold War consisting of "political action, propaganda, paramilitary and intelligence operations" based on U.S. Government arrangements made with brothers of the Dalai Lama, who himself was not initially aware of them. The goal of the program was "to keep the political concept of an autonomous Tibet alive within Tibet and among foreign nations".[1]

Although it was formally assigned to the CIA alone, it was nevertheless closely coordinated with several other U.S. government agencies such as the Department of State and the Department of Defense.[2]

Previous operations had aimed to strengthen a number of isolated Tibetan resistance groups, which eventually led to the creation of a paramilitary force on the Nepalese border with approximately 2,000 men. By February 1964, the projected annual cost for all CIA Tibetan operations had exceeded US$1.7 million.[2]

The program ended after China became a nuclear power and President Nixon visited to China to establish more friendly relations in 1972.[3] The Dalai Lama criticized this decision, saying it proved that the US never did it to help the people of Tibet.[1]



Gyalo Thondup, the second-eldest brother of the 14th Dalai Lama, was a "top asset" of the CIA[4]

In the fields of political action and propaganda, the CIA's Tibetan program was aimed at lessening the influence and capabilities of the Chinese regime.[5] Particularly, the United States feared for communist involvement in the region; a 1957 report on logistical issues indicated increasing worry that the Chinese would increase communist presence in Tibet.[6] The CIA considered China's interest in Tibet to be a threat for multiple reasons; a 1950 memorandum noted that some of the reasons stemmed from self-defense and a desire to have "a bulwark against possible invasion by western powers via India." However, they also believed that China would "use [Tibet as] a base for attacks against India and the middle East in the third world war." Therefore, intelligence officials concluded something had to be done as a preventative measure should their worst-case scenario (WWIII) unfold.[7] The approval and subsequent endorsement of the program was carried out by the Special Group of the United States National Security Council. The program consisted of several clandestine operations with the following code names:

  • ST CIRCUS—Cover name for the training of Tibetan guerillas in the island of Saipan, and at Camp Hale in Colorado[8][9][10]
  • ST BARNUM—Cover name for the airlifting of CIA agents, military supplies, and support equipment into Tibet.[11][12]
  • ST BAILEY—Cover name for a classified propaganda campaign[11]

Chinese-Indian relations also played an important role in framing the CIA's operations. Due to its location between the two countries, it was strategically important. The CIA released numerous reports assessing relations. The CIA monitored the relations between China and India through various means: one such way was for them to keep an eye on the situation was by collecting intelligence from local media such as newspapers and radio broadcasts that reported on the changing relations between India and China.[13] In October 1954, for example, a report was filed by CIA analysts concerning Indian Prime Minister Nehru's visit to China. It assessed what the two countries might or might not agree to from a diplomatic standpoint.[14]


In 1959, the CIA opened a secret facility to train Tibetan recruits at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado[3]
  • December 13, 1962 (1962-12-13): The committee endorses the CIA's training of guerrilla forces in Tibet[5]
Flag of the Chushi Gangdruk, a prominent Tibetan guerrilla organization backed by the CIA
  • April 9, 1965 (1965-04-09): The committee approves the relocation of Tibet's paramilitary force[5]
  • 1970 (1970): A major shift in U.S. policy towards China was intiaited by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who advocated a reduction of U.S. military forces in Asia as part of plans to exit the Vietnam War[15]
  • 1973: The guerrillas received their last installment of American aid in 1973.[16]
  • 1974 (1974): the CIA's monthly payments to the Dalai Lama came to an end.[3]

The Chinese army invaded Lhasa in Tibet in 1950 and thus became the origin of the tension between China and Tibet. With this tension came Tibetan resistance towards China and the United States' interest in helping them fight the communist party. In a memorandum from July 1958, the CIA described the growing resistance to the Chinese in Tibet. The memo says, "During the past two and one half years, resistance has hardened and grown despite Chinese countermeasures that include military force as well as partial withdrawal of Chinese cadres and postponement of 'reforms' and other programs leading toward socialization" [17] early 1950s, the CIA inserted paramilitary teams from the Special Activities Division (SAD) to train and lead Tibetan resistance fighters against the People's Liberation Army of China. The Tibetans were willing to fight against the Chinese they and the CIA had a shared interest in quelling the spread of communism from China into Tibet. The Tibetan people started to form anti-Chinese protests under the influence of the Dalai Lama.[18][19] However, the government of Tibet did not encourage such anti-Chinese protest. The reasons behind the Tibetan people's motivation for the coup was because they perceived the Communist party, especially the Chinese, to be a threat to their religion: Buddhism the religion of Tibet is a form of Buddhism known as Lamaism. It is widely considered unorthodox within the Buddhist community due to its belief in animism.[20] The most significant facet obstructing Chinese Communists from successfully infiltrating Tibet was its strong societal structure. Lamaism was the governing political party in addition to being the most widely practiced religion at the time.[17] Tibetan government was known as a theocracy. Monasteries historically tried to create peace and understanding between the people which gave them the power of mass ideological guidance.[21]

With the help of Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's brother was exiled to India and had contact with the Americans. His American contacts enabled Tibetans to go over to the U.S. for training. They were trained for 5 months on combat maneuvers.[22] These teams selected and then trained Tibetan soldiers in the Rocky Mountains of the United States;[21] as well as at Camp Hale in Colorado.[23][24] The SAD teams then advised and led these commandos against the Chinese, both from Nepal and India. In addition, SAD Paramilitary Officers were responsible for the Dalai Lama's clandestine escape to India, narrowly escaping capture by the Chinese government.


On May 23, 1951, Tibet and China signed the Sino-Tibetan agreement, which allowed China to station troops in Tibet as well as take care of international affairs.[25] In exchange, the Chinese would not alter or affect the current government in Tibet, nor affect the status and authority of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.[25] In October 1951, 12,000 troops from the PLA entered Tibet. The make up of these 12,000 soldiers included 10,000 infantrymen, an animal transport battalion, a battalion of army engineers and about 50 technicians that specialized in the areas of geology, surveying, telecommunications, cultural, propaganda and party affairs.[26] Also, there were violence toward the Tibetan people that originated from Beijing. According to an archive document from the National Security Archive at the George Washington University, "Beijing has pursued...suppressing violent protests, arresting scores of ethnic Tibetans in the Qinghai province, which borders Tibet, sentencing one to prison for 13 years, and renewing accusations that the Dalai Lama is encouraging anti-Beijing actions."[18] According to a memo released by the CIA during the month of October, the Chinese military had arrested over 200 Tibetan people (29 women) for refusing to sell supplies along with desecrating a monastery (Gatza Monastery) in search of weapons. In order to suppress the growing resentment by the Tibetan people, the Chinese military utilized various propaganda to establish a campaign of pacification.[27]


In September 1952, a CIA intelligence report noted the difficulty in continuing to support the Tibetan resistance when the country was fully occupied by the Chinese Communist government. As a result of this domination (of the Tibetans by the Chinese), direct diplomatic relations between Tibet and India ceased. In an article from Aj of Banaras, a daily Hindi newspaper, they reported that this move had ended 16 years of direct contact between the governments of India and Tibet. India was able to have direct communications until that point because China's authority in Tibet was limited until then. In the final paragraph of the article they write, "The Chinese occupation of Tibet a year ago has changed this relationship. The cause was inevitable, and India had no choice but to accept this arrangement, because the Chinese Communists now have complete control of the foreign affairs of Tibet". Previously, India had provided a link for United States' support to the Tibetan resistance.[13] Later that year (December 1952), a CIA Information Report (Classification: Secret) was produced that contained two items in the subject line: 1) Anti-Communist Activities, Tibet, and 2) Chinese Communist Activities, Tibet. The document shows that the agency was closely scrutinizing both Tibetan and Chinese groups and individuals at the time, as well as any other obtained intelligence. The report defines the anti-Communist Tibetan People's Party, and identified geographic areas where the Party's support was strongest. A 36-year old leader, Lhopto Rimpochhe was named as the leader of the "warrior monks." The document goes on to report on intelligence regarding a petition that was sent to the Chinese authorities in Lhasa by Ragashar Shape, Tibetan Defense Minister,[28] but that was ignored. The Shape petition included many interesting points, including: the Dalai Lama should continue to reign supreme; monastery estates should not be confiscated; Tibetans should give thanks to the Chinese for liberation, but kindly ask them to leave, and, in return, the Tibetan people would never ask for military assistance from the Chinese; and asking the Chinese to "please buy the wool" produced in Tibet. The document goes on to list intelligence on some undesired actions taken by the Chinese, including: a forced speech given by a lama under threat of death; the kidnapping of over 200 children for the purpose of retraining them (one was even beheaded as a warning to the others to not cry and complain); and the setting up of a puppet governor at Kham. Next, the document listed nine names of Tibetans who were acting as informers against the Chinese. Lastly, Chinese forces in Tibet were addressed—numbers of troops, names, and leadership transition information.[29]


By February 1953, the Chinese government was attempting a military build-up in Tibet. Airfields could specifically be an advantage as Tibet could then be used as a refueling station between China and India—giving China the ability to fly long combat missions over India and to be able to target all of its northern cities. Additionally, as the highest geographical point, Tibet could maintain an aerial advantage over the region. A CIA information report dated July 31, 1953 reveals the CIA was closely monitoring Chinese projects in Tibet. The report notes that earlier that year Chinese soldiers "attempted to build airfields at Lhasa," the capital of the Tibet Autonomous region, and Gartok, now called Gharyarsa. However the Dalai Lama disapproved of the project and the soldiers ceased construction of the airfields. In May 1953, over 1,000 Chinese soldiers marched to the Chumbi Valley with five field artillery pieces. These soldiers increased Chinese presence in Tibet to approximately 20,000 soldiers—all mainly stationed in Chumbi Valley, Bartok, Rudog, and north of Lhasa.[30] In October 1953, the Chinese government had placed travel restrictions in Tibet. This resulted in a huge diversion of trade of wool forcing them to move westward. Around the same time, the Chinese were using Tibetan labor to create new roadways that would be controlled by the Chinese, which resulted in the Chinese controlling nearly all travel within Tibet.[31] In December 1953 China communicated to the Indian Ambassador their position on Tibet;[32] the Chinese gave nine demands to the Indian Ambassador. Their demands included that they would not tolerate any further Indian interest in Tibet and No objection must be made by India to Chinese construction of forts in Tibet near the Indian and Nepalese borders.[32] Another of the demands stated that India must have a strong policy to abolish illegal activities of foreign agents working on the Indian side of the border.[32]


In April 1954, after four months of negotiating, India and China came to an agreement in the Sino-Indian Treaty. This treaty discussed how China would not allow the continuum of interest in Tibet by India. The Indian borders were to be equal between Tibet and border people. India was to come up with a strong policy concerning illegal activities in the border areas. Civilians and soldiers were to be left alone when crossing the border into Nepal. Finally India was not allowed to support any person that may question Tibet to UN.[33] China allowed India to retain their three trade agencies in Tibet in exchange for three trade agencies for China in India. China was to allow India to keep three trade posts in Tibet at Yatung, Gyantse, and Gartok. In exchange, India was to allow China to keep three trade posts in New Delhi, Calcutta and Kalimpong.[34] The borders were opened for those who wished to visit religious shrines, but China ordered India to withdraw armed forces.[34] China also ordered India to hand over postal, telegraph, and telephone facilities it had been operating in Tibet.[32] A group of Kazakhs were invited to the capital in Ihasa in order to discuss the political status of the group. The trade between Tibet and China started out really strong. China was able to bring silver dollars to Tibet, which was very pleasing. The products were generally unloaded in Tibet by plane and from there they were taken on a camel caravan. Camels were typically used in Tibet during cold weather, but horses, mules, and donkeys were also used to transport products in fair weather.[35]


In 1955, a group of local Tibetan leaders secretly plotted an armed uprising, and rebellion broke out in 1956, with the rebels besieging several Chinese government agencies, killing hundreds of Chinese government staff, and killing many Han Chinese people.[3] This coincides (chronologically) with the creation of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous region, an organization created to help the Chinese undermine the religious and political systems of Tibet.[25] The Chinese bombed an ancient monastery in February 1956, killing thousands of monks and ordinary citizens.[36] The Tibetans knew that they could not fight off the Chinese on their own so they called in help from an outside source. It was in the shared interest of both Tibet and the United States to limit the power of the Chinese within Tibet's borders. Americans thought that this would be a great opportunity to prevent the spread of communism throughout southeast Asia.[36] Starting in 1956, the CIA initiated a large scale clandestine operation against the communist Chinese.[37] During December 1956, the Dalai Lama had left Tibet to attend a Buddhist celebration in India.[38]

A briefing for the DCI from 1959 mentions that "as far back as 1956, we began to receive reports indicating spread of Tibetan revolt against Chinese communists through areas inhabited by Khamba tribes in eastern Tibet."[39] By May 1957, a rebel organization with its own fighting force was established with the support of the CIA.[3] This was the first time that many Tibetans had seen a white man in person.[36] They received training for the next five months. Some of the things that they were trained on included: modern weapons, guerrilla tactics, espionage, codes, and operation of hand-cranked radio transmitter/receivers.[36] Tibetans took this training very seriously and can be quoted stating that they "lived to kill Chinese."[36] In late 1958 the CIA trained more Tibetans at Camp Hale and a total of 259 Tibetans over a five-year period were trained with tactics in Guerrilla warfare.[citation needed] The CIA established a secret military training camp called Camp Hale, located near Leadville, Colorado, where the Tibetans were trained to sabotage operations against the Communist Chinese.[37] The camp was closed in 1966, despite the conclusion of program training in 1961.[37]


In 1958, with the rebellion in Kham ongoing, two of these fighters, Athar and Lhotse, attempted to meet with the Dalai Lama to determine whether he would cooperate with their activities. However, their request for an audience was refused by the Lord Chamberlain, Phala Thubten Wonden, who believed such a meeting would be impolitic. According to Tsering Shakya, "Phala never told the Dalai Lama or the Kashag of the arrival of Athar and Lhotse. Nor did he inform the Dalai Lama of American willingness to provide aid".[40]

In Eastern Tibet there was a khamba tribe that was thought to be in active resistance against the Chinese communists. There was a huge outbreak of these rebels in March 1959 because they feared that the Chinese were planning to take the Dalai Lama from the country.[41] Since they had feared that he was going to be kidnapped they decided to protect him by moving him to an area that was located just outside Lhasa. These rebels claimed an "independent kingdom of Tibet" when they decided to resist the Chinese outpost.[42] In order to try and get the rebels to back down the Chinese attempted to kidnap the Dalai Lama.[42] This led to the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in which thousands took to the streets in order to stop the supposed kidnapping. A 1959 DCI briefing highlights the measures in which citizens took in order to protect the Dalai Lama. The report says, "Thousands of Tibetan demonstrators then took the Dalai Lama into protective custody in his summer palace just outside Lhasa".[43] The Chinese attempted to make the Dalai Lama stop the uprising, but they could not, which then led to his flight to India.[44] Prior to his flight to India (due to shots being fired outside the palace), Dalai and the Tibet representative were sending letters back and forth to each other in hopes of avoiding an attack. Dalai continued fighting for independence for Tibet outside India. Finally, with the hope of halting Chinese aggression and demands, India recognized Tibet as part of China.[42]

In 1959, the Dalai Lama and approximately 100,000 followers fled to India and Nepal.[37] The rebels continued to attack Chinese government officials, disrupting communication lines, and targeting Chinese troops.[3] Following a mass uprising in Lhasa in 1959 during the celebration of the Tibetan New Year and the ensuing Chinese military response, the Dalai Lama went into exile in India.[21] At this point, the Chinese began changing their policy of working through institutions to build the Communist Party in Tibet. They began to replace the government with Communist-sponsored leaders. By this time the rebels were under constant Chinese attack and losing the remaining ground that they controlled.[45] A declassified DCI briefing of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee offered some further elaboration on the Dalai Lama's position in India. The Dalai Lama remained insistent on wanting to establish a free Tibet which threatened his asylum in India. Prime Minister Nehru vowed to protect the Dalai Lama's right to practice his spirituality but would not condone any anti-communist politics coming from the Dalai Lama. Nehru's main reason for this was that India had previously recognized that Tibet was a part of China. The evidence seems to imply that popular Indian sentiment and reactions to this policy caused Nehru to become more sympathetic toward Tibet, but sadly the rest of this section was redacted from the public record.[46]

Between 1959–1960 the CIA parachuted four groups of Camp Hale trainee's to meet up with the Tibetan resistance. In Autumn of 1959 the CIA parachuted a 2nd group of 16 men into Pembar to meet up with the resistance. By January 1960 the CIA parachuted the fourth and last team in Tibet. Along with these drops of men, the CIA also provided arms drops to the resistance. All the CIA trained Tibetans from Camp Hale left with personal weapons, wireless sets, and a cyanide tablet strapped onto each man's left wrist.[47]

The resistance movement did successfully accomplish the job of bringing great cost and distraction to the Chinese government. CIA estimates in 1959 were that the Chinese had around 60,000 troops in Tibet and needed 256 tons of supplies daily. Due to there only being 3 viable transport routes into Tibet,[48] the CIA also estimated that if they could get the Chinese to double the needed supplies, then the existing infrastructure would not be able to keep up with supply without supplementary airlifts or construction to repair existing routes. The CIA estimated that even with these supplemental airlifts, it would cause substantial disruption in other air services and the Chinese could not expect to supply double its commitments long-term.[48] The Lanzhou-Lhasa highway was the most ideal logistical land supply route at 2,148 km long. In order to assess the conditions of these routes for transport, certain factors such as road construction, width, grades, curves, bottlenecks, and road conditions impacted by weather are heavily taken into consideration.[48] The CIA estimated China could support up to 90,000 troops in Tibet for a few months, but only 60,000 for an extended deployment.[48] In order to support 90,000 troops in the region, China would have to use the Lan-chou-Lhasa highway to its capacity and would require around 7,000 supply trucks per month. However, such heavy usage of the road was estimated to cause substantial damage.[48] The CIA also considered how a build-up of Chinese troops would affect the railroads and determined that, although congestion could impose some burden on the supply chain, there would really be no significant effect on the lines.[48] However, if one of the lines failed due to a washout or other reason, supplies would have to be trucked into the staging areas, which the CIA determined would be a time-consuming operation.[48] Petroleum usage in Tibet was estimated at 2.7% of China's total availability, with a total usage of around 200,000 tons for the year.[49] The "blue satchel raid" of the Chinese was considered one of the greatest intelligence hauls in the history of the CIA. This raid obtained Chinese government documents that showed them having trouble moving forward with the spread of communism through Tibet. It gave the CIA good insight into what was going on in China, and for the first time they really had authentic Chinese documents that were not made up or given to them by a rogue agent. This changed the focus of the CIA as they informed the Tibetans not to attack the Chinese but to gather intelligence on them.[22]

The CIA Tibetan Task Force continued the operation against Chinese forces alongside the Tibetan guerrilla army for another 15 years, until 1974.[37]

1960–1975/Reflection Upon Underlying Difficulties Faced by Chinese Occupation

As stated by Palden Wangyal, a veteran guerrilla fighter, the rebels were directly paid by the Americans to attack Chinese government facilities and installations in Tibet:

Our soldiers attacked Chinese trucks and seized some documents of the Chinese government. After that the Americans increased our pay scale.[50]

Some CIA trainees ended up commanding an army of 2,000 resistance fighters dubbed the Chushi Gangdruk, or "Four Rivers, Six Gorges".[51] These fighters were specialized in ambushing Chinese targets from elevated bases in the mountains of Nepal.[51]

Furthermore, the CIA was attempting to assist the Tibetan rebels enhancing their ability to move troops and materials. The CIA was conducting studies on how the Tibetan resistance movement could best counter the Chinese Communists. Therefore, the CIA was working with the leaders of the movement in order to garner more support for the resistance as well as manage the logistics of the movement of these troops. The CIA was examining the difficulty in moving the additional troops necessary to counter the Chinese. This meant that the CIA was giving recommendations for the capacity and ability of roadways to support the troop movements. Without this logistical support, the Tibetans could not sufficiently counter the Chinese Communists.[52] However, a declassified CIA document from July 1958 outlined the agency's assessment of the possibility that Communists would infiltrate Tibetan society, and completely assimilate all aspects of Tibetan life into the culture of Communist China.

The CIA knew of China's attempts at cultural assimilation in Tibet, and therefore wanted to take measures to counteract that possibility. However, according to the document, the possibility of the "complete integration," of "political, social, and economic" aspects of Tibetan life was not substantial.[38] Long before the current Chinese occupation, Tibet had a longstanding tradition of independence. The memo cites numerous historical accounts of Chinese attempts at conquering and controlling Tibet, none of which ended in success or the integration of Tibet into Chinese society.[38] The documents also mentions the problematic "terrain, climate, and location" of Tibet.[38] Tibet contains protruding mountains, massive plateaus, deep river valleys, and enormous gorges that make communication and military operations extremely difficult. The terrain of the country gave rise to the isolated nature of large amounts of the population, which allowed for guerrilla warfare to thrive, and caused a "political fragmentation among the Kham," the southeastern region of Tibet.[38] Due to the fact that most Tibetans are peasants and not monks or nobles they have experience with the terrain and are often nomads. This also affects how they can keep their independence and are difficult to control [38] The Chinese focused substantial resources on keeping roads and supply lines functioning, a difficult task in Tibet's challenging landscape. Other CIA documents reaffirm this notion, by recognizing the enormous cost of resupplying operatives and keeping supply chains moving in the country.[48] The July 1985 document also cites the structure of Tibetan society as primary source of trouble for the Chinese. Tibetan society revolves around the Lamaist Church, and its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.[38] The Dalai Lama was not merely a spiritual guide, but a political and ideological leader. Tibetan monasteries were more than just houses of worship, they were the economic and political centers of Tibetan society, which allowed the clergy to wield considerable power.[38] The clergy were conservative and extremely traditionalistic. This meant that any deviation from traditional Tibetan life was met with strict opposition. All together the author suggests that the socialization of Tibet may be "prolonged" despite the substantial investments of the Chinese to integrate the area.[38] Tibetan's spirit for independence, the country's fractured and isolated population, the harsh Chinese policies, and the Chinese military occupation all contribute to the problems that the Chinese have had in controlling the country.[38]

The McMahon Line, drawn in 1914, is the geographic boundary between Tibet and India, which stretches along the crest ridge of the Himalayan ridge. The Chinese refuse to accept the McMahon Line as the legal boundary, however India is adamant that it is. With this disagreement, the Chinese believe that they have grounds for charging Indian troops with invasion of their territory.[53] Tibet is predominantly composed of rugged terrain, with plateaus, mountains and deep river valleys.[25] However, no real survey has been made of the land and no markers have been placed which allows the room for disagreement.[53]

In 1969 the CIA cutoff all support to the resistance as American foreign policy objectives changed and finally ended when Richard Nixon decided to seek rapprochement with China in the early 1970s. As a result, each of the 1,500 CIA-trained rebels received 10,000 rupees to buy land in India or to open a business, instead of fighting the People's Liberation Army of China. In addition, the White House decided that the training of Tibetan guerrillas by the CIA would have to cease, because the risk of damaging Sino-American relations would be too high and costly.[54]

While still unsupported, the CIA is suspected to be involved in another failed revolt in October 1987, with unrest that followed and continuation of Chinese repression until May 1993.[37]

Contemporary Tibet-China RelationshipEdit

Although the Chinese liberalization program for Tibet occurred decades ago, there is still tension between the two parties, in part, because of the U.S. involvement. In late September 2012, a U.S. Ambassador visited Beijing but also met with Tibetan monks. The Ambassador is Gary Locke, who himself is a third-generation Chinese American. The fact that he met with Tibetan monks displeased China.[18] The tension between Tibet and China has influenced the Chinese to "always protests vehemently whenever U.S. officials meet with the Dalai Lama." [18]

China also faces opposition movements from the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province as well as the Falun Gong. With these conflicts, it is thought that the CIA will look for the right opportunity to destabilize Chinese rule in Tibet.[37]

China is viewed unfavorably in Washington and the CIA notes China is uncooperative in the war on terror. China is often uncooperative in stopping the arms flow across western China to southeast Asia in support of Islamic extremism.[37]

Modernization has also made it easier for the Chinese to resupply, due in part to the construction of the first railway between 2001 and 2007. This railway makes for easier movement of troops and equipment.[37]


The following table illustrates the costs of the CIA's Tibetan program in 1964:

A total of 1,735,000 dollars was devoted to the Tibetan program for FY1964

Item Cost
Tibetan resistance efforts in Nepal US$500,000[2]
Tibet Houses in New York and Geneva (1/2 year) US$75,000[2]
Training US$855,000[2]
Subsidy to the Dalai Lama US$180,000[2]
Miscellaneous costs US$125,000[2]

Moreover, the estimate for the Tibetan program underwent substantial budget cuts in 1968, approximately 570,000 dollars, when all related training programs in the United States were relinquished. The remaining 1,165,000 dollars were allocated to the CIA budget for the program in FY1968. However, a considerable degree of uncertainty exists regarding the exact amount approved for the program during this time due to classification issues.[5]

International lobbyingEdit

The 14th Dalai Lama was financially supported by the CIA between the late 1950s and the mid 1970s, receiving 180,000 dollars per annum. The funds were paid to him personally, although he used most of them for Tibetan government-in-exile activities such as funding foreign offices to lobby for international support.[55]

The Dalai Lama sought asylum in India however, the issues regarding Tibet and China had their fair share of press. Many protests erupted in response to the political conflicts between Tibet and China in countries such as Burma, Pakistan, and Japan (and many more).[20] Although the Dalai Lama's pleas proved to be less effective with the passing of time, his office in New York did not cease to lobby several U.N. delegations for the Tibetan cause. In addition, the Dalai Lama was also aided by a former U.S. delegate to the U.N.[2]


In his 1991 autobiography Freedom in Exile, the 14th Dalai Lama criticized the CIA for supporting the Tibetan independence movement "not because they (the CIA) cared about Tibetan independence, but as part of their worldwide efforts to destabilize all communist governments".[56]

In 1999, the Dalai Lama claimed that the CIA Tibetan program had been harmful for Tibet because it was primarily aimed at serving American interests, and "once the American policy toward China changed, they stopped their help".[3]

In this time with the CIA supporting the Tibetan people it was CIA and American policy to keep the Chinese occupied with resistance or as the CIA put it dealing with them would be a nuisance and keep the Chinese busy. The CIA's involvement in Tibet was never focused on it becoming independent from China but to gain intelligence on them and fight communism.

The CIA was criticized for breaking promises pertaining to declassification, including some documentation pertaining to the support or Tibetian Guerilla fighters in the 1950s to early 60s.[57]

The hope of the United States officials in the 1980s was that the Chinese movement initiated in Tibet for liberalization would go as planned and lead to significant improvements within the country. Some declassified documents recently released show intentions that were completely opposed to the one in Beijing; including barring violent protests and arresting large amounts of Tibetans in the Qinghai province on the border of Tibet.[58]

In 2009, President Barack Obama faced a great amount of criticism for postponing his meeting with the Dalai Lama due to the fact that it was the first time that a Presidential leader had cancelled a meeting with the spiritual leader in over two decades.[59]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b MANN, JIM (15 September 1998). "CIA Gave Aid to Tibetan Exiles in '60s, Files Show" – via LA Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Status Report on Tibetan Operations". Office of the Historian. January 9, 1968.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Jonathan Mirsky. "Tibet: The CIA's Cancelled War". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  4. ^ Sautman, Barry (1 March 2010). "Tibet's Putative Statehood and International Law". Chinese Journal of International Law. Oxford University Press. 9 (1): 127–142. Indeed, after the 1962 war, B.N. Mullik, India's Intelligence Bureau Chief, told Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's brother and a top CIA asset, that India supported Tibet's "eventual liberation.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Status Report on Tibetan Operations". Office of the Historian. January 26, 1968.
  6. ^ "Logistical Problems of the Tibetan Campaign" (PDF). CIA. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  7. ^ ""Chinese Communist Motives in Invasion of Tibet"", CIA Reading Roomm, retrieved 9 February 2017
  8. ^ Jehangir Pocha (December 1, 2003). "Tibet's Gamble". In These Times. The operation, code-named ST CIRCUS, was one of the CIA's longest-running projects.
  9. ^ Lal, Dinesh (2008). Indo-Tibet-China conflict. Delhi: Kalpaz Publications. p. 152. ISBN 8178357143.
  10. ^ Johnson, Tim. Tragedy in crimson how the Dalai Lama conquered the world but lost the battle with China. New York: Nation Books. p. 114. ISBN 1-56858-649-3.
  11. ^ a b Roberts, John B. Roberts II, Elizabeth A. (2009). Freeing Tibet 50 years of struggle, resilience, and hope. New York: AMACOM. p. 82. ISBN 0-8144-1375-7.
  12. ^ MERCHET Jean-Dominique (1998). "Livre. Du Viêt-nam à Cuba, l'épopée clandestine des pilotes de la CIA. Les ailes de l'Amérique. Frédéric Lert, "les Ailes de la CIA". Histoire et collections. 512 pp., 145 F." (in French). Libération. Comme au Tibet, avec l'opération «ST Barnum», de 1957 à 1960. Des avions de transport «civils» franchissent l'Himalaya et s'aventurent sur les hauts plateaux tibétains pour aller parachuter des armes et des hommes à la résistance antichinoise.
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ ""Sino-Indian Relations"" (PDF). CIA. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  15. ^ Roberts, John B; Roberts, Elizabeth A. (2009). Freeing Tibet 50 years of struggle, resilience, and hope. New York: American Management Association. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-8144-1375-3.
  16. ^ Craig, Mary (1997). Kundun: A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama (First ed.). Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint. p. 296. ISBN 1-887178-64-3. The guerrillas received their last installment of American aid in 1973. Lhamo Tsering (whom GT had left in overall charge) was bitter. 'There was no getting away from it,' he said, 'It was no longer in America's interest to support Tibet.'
  17. ^ a b "Resistance in Tibet" (PDF). Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  18. ^ a b c d "Beijing's 1980's Tibetan Thaw – Missed Opportunity or Doomed to Fail?".
  19. ^ "U.S. Officials Hoped Chinese Liberalization Program for Tibet in Early 1980s Would Bring Significant Improvements".
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ a b c Conboy, Kenneth; Morrison, James (2002). The CIA's secret war in Tibet. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1788-3.
  22. ^ a b "CIA's Secret War in Tibet | HistoryNet". Retrieved 2017-02-07.
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