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Tibet Subject to Western Aggression

By the end of the 19th century Tibet had acquired massive strategic importance for Britain and Russia, as both were in the process of expanding their imperial "spheres of influence" in Central Asia. After a series of trade missions and then military expeditions (such as the Younghusband expedition of 1904, which exposed the weakness of the Manchu hold over Tibet), the British were able to gain an advantage, and so convened a tripartite conference to discuss Tibet's status at Simla in 1914.

The Tibetans arrived at the conference with written evidence proving the historical independence of Tibet. The Chinese delegation simply argued that Tibet's subjugation by the Mongols and the Manchus proved it had become an integral part of China, and should therefore now be ruled as part of the new Republic of China from Beijing. Negotiations were difficult, and the solution eventually put forward recognised Chinese "suzerainty" over Tibet, but guaranteed the autonomy of western Tibet, and provided for complete Tibetan control over internal affairs. The Chinese representative at the conference initialled the agreement, but did not proceed to a full signature under pressure from Beijing. Britain and Tibet then declared that they would abide by the provisions of the agreement, while China would be unable to enjoy any of the privileges contained within.

The Chinese now claim that their failure to sign the agreement left it "null and void", and argue that "the Simla Conference has gone down in the annals as an ignominious deed by British imperialism" (Highlights of Tibetan History, p.153). The legal status of the Simla Convention is still open to debate, but its true significance lies in its recognition of Tibet as an independent nation with which binding agreements could be negotiated (eg: the Lhasa Treaty of 1904). Throughout the Nationalist (Guomindang) period, no Chinese government was able to exert any influence over Tibet.

Nine Unknown Men

Nine Unknown Men are a two millennia-old secret society founded by the Indian Emperor Asoka.