HC Deb 04 February 1904 vol 129 cc337-9

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he will make a statement setting forth the objects and reasons for the present expedition to Thibet; whether he can give an assurance to the House that there is no intention of annexing any portion of Thibetan territory; whether he will state the strength of the military force employed, and the estimated cost of the expedition; whether the whole of the expense will be borne by the Imperial Treasury; and whether he will lay Papers upon the Table of the House.


A full statement of the reasons for and objects of the political mission to Thibet iscontained in the Blue-book which will shortly be in the hands of hon. Members. The object of the mission is not to annex any portion of Thibetan territory, but to prevent a recurrence of the difficulties arising from the attitude of the Thibetan Government in respect of the Convention of 1890. The force employed, as I stated in my reply to the hon. Member for King's Lynn yesterday, is some 3,000 men. A preliminary estimate of the expenditure for four months from the 1st November is £108,400, but owing to difficulties of transport this will probably be exceeded. The charge will be borne by Indian revenues.


Arising out of that, may I ask whether it is likely that the Blue-book will be issued before the debate on the Amendment to the Address dealing with the mission.


I hope the Blue-book will be ready by Monday or Tuesday. I am doing all in my power to expedite its issue.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India what is the nature of the expedition sent from India to, and now in, Thibet; what is the total number of men composing it; has the Government of Thibet given permission for the expedition to enter the country; have any military operations been undertaken by this expedition; why was the expedition ordered and what end is it intended to attain; and will Papers be laid showing the causes which led to the despatch of the expedition.


A political mission has been sent to Thibet with an escort to provide for its safety. The escort consists of 400 men, with a seven-pounder gun and a machine gun, and a supporting force has been placed at various points to preserve the communications of the mission. The total of the troops employed on the escort and on the communications, according to my present information, is about 3,000 men. The mission has been sent in consequence of the failure of the Thibetan Government to carry out its obligations under the Treaty of 1890, and the neglect of the Thibetan Government to meet the British representatives as arranged by the Chinese Government, who are the Suzerain Power. No military operations have been undertaken. Papers will shortly be laid showing the circumstances which have made the despatch of a mission necessary.


That is no answer to my Question whether the Thibetan Government have given permission for this expedition to enter their territory.


The Chinese Government, who entered into these negotiations in the first instance, arranged for a meeting of the representatives of the Thibetan, Chinese, and Indian Governments in Thibetan territory. The Government of Thibet have hitherto failed to comply with the arrangement made by the Chinese Government, and therefore they have not given permission to the mission to enter their territory.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say exactly where the mission now is, and whether the members are suffering from the inclement weather?


Order, order! Notice must be given of that Question.