- GON Efforts to Disarm Khampas
1. Summary: GON is currently engaged in effort to disarm Khampas resident in Mustang and is taking military action to this end. Situation has considerable potential for escalation and will almost certainly attract increasing international press play. Embassy believes USG should be prepared to respond to questions about USG involvement with Khampas. End summary.
2. In last week to ten days we have developed information which has also been subject of extensive rumor mongering on GON actions and intentions in respect to armed Tibetan Khampa refugees in Mustang. Our reporting sources indicate GON military activity to be either contemplated or underway to compel Khampa surrender of arms, issuance of identity cards, and dispersal to other less sensitive areas of the kingdom.
3. Information available to us indicates that arrest of a Tibetan, Lhamo Tsering, in Pokhara on April 19 was a GON effort, by holding him hostage, to compel Khampa adherance to GON demands. Arrest both miscalculated Tsering’s influence and the anticipated Khampa response. GON apparently planned or already has underway military efforts forceably to disarm the Khampas. We have received various and fragmentary reports of Khampas moving towards Pokhara to effect the release of Tsering, GON military units moving in significant numbers towards Mustang to forceably divest the Khampas of their arms, and fire-fights involving non-specific casualty figures suffered by both protaganists. In addition, there are rumors that Raja of Mustang is supporting Khampas and that Chinese have moved troops towards Mustang.
4. GON is trying to downplay significance of these developments. The Minister of Home Affairs on June 29 advised the national Panchayat that GON efforts in Mustang were limited to registering and rehabilitating the Khampas, and the semi-official Rising Nepal on July 4 quoted an MFA spokesman as terming quote malicious and misleading end quote an Indian press report claiming Mustang to be a semi-autonomous region.
5. Our current assessment based on reporting available to this date, is that GON actions are designed to establish control over a hitherto unruly and autonomous element of the population, to defuse an issue of periodic dispute in their relations with the PRC and to preempt the Nepal Congress Party from obtaining Khampa arms for political ends. There is, however, serious risk GON will miscalculate the Khampa response, and this in turn holds potential for an embarrassing armed conflict in which the Royal Nepalese Army might suffer casualities and in which extended guerrilla action might ensue. The old issue of [text not declassified] involvement with the Khampa force will almost certainly surface as is evident from Hindustan Times July 3 article making reference to Western reports of CIA arming of Khampas.
6. Though all information available to us indicates GON objectives are limited as described above, it would be prudent for USG to prepare for the contingency that hostilities escalate resulting in claims and counterclaims, continued press speculation and rumors and allegations of current USG involvement. We need to have prepared a unified, effective and credible response.
7. Under present circumstances, the mission is expressing no particular interest in events in Mustang to either officials of the GON, members of the diplomatic community or others with whom we are in contact. We understand from Indian Ambassador here that he is taking similar low-key posture. By listening but not probing we hope to avoid the appearance of having a special interest in a matter that might amply involvement or undue concern. Should the situation develop to the point that response is required to accusations of USG involvement with Khampas in Nepal. I would hope that we could state that this Mission is not, nor has it ever in the past, been involved with the Khampas of Mustang. Privately, if pressed for comment by GON officials, I believe we can further defuse the issue of this Mission’s role by statements of sympathy and support for GON efforts to effect legitimate control over a potentially troublesome element of the refugee population. If there are specific allegations of former CIA involvement with the Khampas, this Mission should decline any comment. If comment should be needed, we suggest this be made by appropriate Department spokesman. In developing Department guidance, we should consider making the point to the extent the USG has ever been in a position to influence the Tibetan leadership, our longtime advice and efforts have been to assist ensure that Tibetan refugees honor the letter and spirit of the laws of host governments in whose countries they are generously afforded refuge and that they engage only in peaceful and non-military occupations.
8. I do not believe the situation currently requires any public statements on the subject. I do, however, believe that situation is potentially one which could drag on and attract increasing press play. We should be alert to those contingencies, and I urge the Department to review the problem [text not declassified] and to prepare contingency guidance for use in Washington and by this and other involved missions.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Priority; Exdis. It was repeated to New Delhi. On July 12, the Department responded in telegram 151507 and agreed that “you should continue [to] avoid giving the Government of Nepal any suggestion that we have a particular interest in this subject.” (Ibid.) The Embassy asked for further guidance after Nepalese Home Minister Hom Shrestha stated that the Khampas had been supported by “powerful and rich countries with interests in the region,” which should pay for their resettlement. (Telegram 3155 from Katmandu, August 1; Ibid.) The United States declined to contribute. (Telegram 23112 to Katmandu, January 31, 1975; Ibid.)↩
- The Embassy informed the Department of Nepal’s attempt to disarm and resettle the Khampas in Mustang province. It drew the department’s attention toward the possibility of “claims and counterclaims, continued press speculation and rumors and allegations of current U. S. Government involvement,” and proposed a policy of “no comment.”↩