Top image caption: Tibet’s secret army that the CIA trained and sponsored.

The Tibetan people have a reputation of being devout pacifists, a nation of gentle and benign race who are victims of an aggressor. In fact, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end China’s domination of Tibet. But non-violence has not always been the Tibetan people’s preferred strategy and only a few know of Tibet’s secret war which the Dalai Lama’s brother, together with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), waged against China.

This is a story that portrays a very different Tibet and a very different breed of Tibetan leadership. This story speaks of how the Tibetan leadership is completely capable of espionage, chicanery and most surprising of all, violence. ‘India And The Secret War of Tibet’ reveals how the Tibetan people were recruited to fight America’s proxy war and how they were recruited, trained, funded, used and ultimately betrayed.



India and the Secret War in Tibet

DNA India [Sunday, April 2, 2017. 08:00am]
By Ananth Karthikeyan

(DNA – Iftikhar Gilani) The mystical Shangri-La

India actively collaborated in a US effort to destabilise China-occupied Tibet until the changed geopolitics blunted the project

The late 1940s saw the rise of the Communist rule in China, a frightening development for the US bloc. John Prados’ “Presidents’ Secret Wars” and John Kenneth Knaus’ “Orphans of the Cold War” and former IB chief BN Mullick’s book “My years with Nehru” details the US operations to destabilise the Chinese occupation of Tibet, which was violently annexed in 1950. Thousands of bitter Tibetans were recruited by the CIA in Sikkim, Nepal and India. A major figure in the Tibetan resistance was the current Dalai Lama’s brother, Gyalo Thondup. Training was imparted in various global locations, and the recruits were infiltrated into Tibet throughout the 1956-1962 period. These were mostly intelligence gathering missions but the Tibetans also routinely skirmished with Chinese forces. Operations were mainly directed from a US site in East Pakistan. Indian authorities were aware of these clandestine activities and the Americans made considerable efforts to prevent Indian interference. This was the “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” period, and India was courting the Chinese.

Everything changed when the war broke out in 1962. Faced with military collapse, India planned to use Tibetans to attack the strained Chinese supply lines. They were aware of existing US-trained Tibetan forces in US bases in Asia. Gyalo Thondup was contacted for assistance: India’s newfound interest was welcomed by the Tibetans and thus India entered the secret war. Army Chief Kaul and Mullick chose the enterprising Brigadier Uban to lead this mission. Most of the trained Tibetans were relocated to Chakrata and “Establishment-22”, which would later metamorphosise into the Special Frontier Force (SFF), was thus formed. Before the Indo-US-Tibetan project could participate in the war, the Chinese unilaterally declared a cease-fire. India was now wiser to the long-term Chinese threat: the shooting war was over but there was work to be done. Biju Patnaik, no stranger to intrigue and adventure, also played a part in this covert program. Armed with Nehru’s support, Patnaik initiated the formation of an operations base in the Charbatia airstrip in Odisha. With the assistance of American veterans and under the cover of Patnaik’s Kalinga Airlines, this base named “Oak Tree-1” turned into a major node of the program. Patnaik apparently helped route funds discreetly, arranged the services of his own air-crew, and provided office space and equipment from his own businesses. The Special Service Bureau (SSB), which would evolve into the Sashastra Seema Bal, was also founded by Mullick and Patnaik to support these operations. A fictitious Gurkha regiment was created to hide the presence of the Tibetans in various Indian military facilities. Great care was taken to hide American personnel from the public eye.

The joint operations did not last long despite major successes, including uncovering the Chinese nuclear weapons programme. US-Pakistan ties deepened in the 60s due to the Cold War; on the other hand, the Russians actively courted India after the 1962 war. India’s outspoken non-aligned stance also enraged the US Government and by 1965-66 American involvement in the Indian leg of operations wound up. Officials and political personalities who once actively worked with the Americans had by now faded away or were resigned to the breakdown in ties. China’s growing clout, the Pakistan effect and Nixon’s visit to China ultimately ended US assistance to the Tibetans in the early 70s. The improvement in Sino-Indian ties in the late 60s also led to significant roll-back of covert operations in Tibet. The sizeable Tibetan force was disbanded, with a few being absorbed into the SFF and SSB. However, episodes like the 1967 clashes, the 1987 episode and the Indo-Pak conflicts saw Tibetans in major combat roles. The remaining Tibetan forces in Nepal were less fortunate after the King turned on the Tibetans in late 1974 to gain Chinese support. Senior leaders were killed or incarcerated and only a personal appeal from the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan forces avoided heavy causalities. India could not intervene but absorbed a handful of escaped fighters and refugees.

Tibetans serve in the Indian Armed forces to this day, undoubtedly dreaming of their homeland’s liberation. Other Tibetans like the Dalai Lama continue the struggle through peaceful means.

Click to enlarge. Originally posted on DNA India (

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  1. Sierra

    April 5, 2017 at 5:59 am

    India had always wished for a Tibet free from China for their border security should relations between India and China sour as it did during the Cold War era. China showed that they could take the borders relatively easy as shown when Aksai Chin was lost to the Chinese in 1962. Although the Chinese troops had to march through the harsh terrain, they still managed to win that war even as China called for a ceasefire and withdrew her troops from the other parts such Tawang but retained control of Aksai Chin.

    Such was China’s way of showing India that she is vulnerable. Thus, till today there is an uneasy truce. Still, India will occasionally try to take a bite at China such as the arunachal pradesh Incident with the Dalai Lama although they are supposed to be friendly towards each other now.

    So, it is interesting to note the covert operations of India into China which explains that closeness of the Indians with the Tibetans as well.

  2. SabrinaS

    April 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

    ‘The Tibetan people have a reputation of being devout pacifists, a nation of gentle and benign race who are victims of an aggressor.’

    That sentence is exactly what I had always been impressed on, especially with the Dalai Lama’s benign and loving teachings/messages to the world. This article really blows the mind and wrong perception with their aggression and covert activities. It shows how we can never ‘judge’ or fully know from the facade of a person/nation. We may have the Buddha nature within but when times of trials come, we are all potential aggressors.

    In wishing to reclaim their country back, the Tibetans worked with Pakistan, India and US who provided funds and trainings in espionage & warfare. Its a partnership that both parties had their own motivations towards a shared target which is China. However over the years the Tibetan cause had lost its appeal as the world moves on and China strengthen their ‘friendship’ with others. So now I only see CTA being a pawn to the wishes of their sponsors who used them to antagonise China or to tear into China’s reputation. Due to the comfort of receiving sponsorships without work, CTA in their greed and self serving attitude willing takes on the position of lackey instead of moving forward to work with the people who holds their home in hand.

    China had over the years improved their policies on human rights and freedom of religion. She had improved the living conditions of those in Tibet, preserved cultural heritage, repair or rebuilt historical & holy places, modernised infrastructure and gave them the rights to own their business & properties. Whereas CTA had continues using feudalistic rule on their people in exile, ban certain authentic religious practices, incited hatred, persecuted, segregated against certain religious practitioners for holding true to their Guru Devotion, robbed these practitioners of their rightful properties or destroyed their properties. All these illegal acts are against their own constitution but the false public benign facade fooled many and CTA is able to carry on with impunity. Those Leaders who know turned the blind eyes due to guilt of having been an accomplice or because CTA still fulfil certain roles they can utilise to forward their political goals.

    Publicly CTA appeals to World Leaders for help to have dialogue with China for Autonomy Tibet but continues with the propaganda of vulgarity and false accusations towards China. This contradiction shows CTA is pampering the ego of their sponsors for easy money and don’t really wish to fulfil the Dalai Lama’s vision of autonomy Tibet. After all how would CTA survive in Tibet China and live in the powerful luxury state that they are in now? Only the common Tibetans in Exile suffers as they linger in refugee camps waiting for actualisation of their dreams to return home.

  3. Richard LakTam

    April 11, 2017 at 10:32 am

    From what I see after reading the article, I have a feeling that Tibet, Tibetan were being used by other countries (China’s enemy) to fight against China, while Tibet, all the while wanting to fight for their independence. When people within one country are not unite, there are chances for outsiders, here, we are talking about one country’s enemies, to take chances to invade or attack. Just like the story we always hear during our childhood. A dying rich old man called for his ten sons, and he ordered them to hold one chopstick each and break it. The ten sons broke the chopstick easily. Then he ordered them to bundle all 10 chopsticks together, and then ordered one by one to break the 10 chopsticks. But none of his sons could even break the bundle. This story showed us, when we unite, there are no outsiders or intruders can invade or break the brotherhood. Here, we are talking about breaking up a country.

    Until today, it seems the Tibetan Leadership still doesn’t understand this theory. Maybe they chose not to understand it or ignore it, so that they can continue getting financial support from the west, whether for their personal interest? Only CTA knows it. From what we can see now, even the current US president seems to be wanting to get a piece of cake from the China, despite his nasty comment about China previously, and starting to loose interest on Tibet. Obviously, from politics point of view, who doesn’t want to get close or befriended to a powerful country? Wake up CTA. If you still don’t, good luck then.

  4. samayakeeper

    April 11, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The CTA knew very well what they were getting into when they signed up with the CIA. Back then they were desperate for a powerful ally. Today they still need the ally but more for the financial support than anything else. It would be noble if the sponsored fund were used to unite Tibetans for their common cause, and morally correct to use the fund for the betterment of its people rather than to split Tibetans into factions through religious ploys.

  5. bambi

    April 11, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Because of politics and selfish reasons, bigger countries are ‘using’ smaller countries to fight for their cause. But, all these come with a price of course. Why would big countries help these smaller countries to do their dirty work? We all know non of them are doing it for free. There is always a catch. The bigger ones always get the most benefits while the smaller ones will continue to suffer. All for selfish gains and more destructions. There are always wars because of power greed. What about the welfare of the people? Do look at CTA and Tibet now. What have they gained? People and families separated because of the war.

  6. Tenzin K

    April 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

    When we come to talk about politic there are so many ways the giant country would do to gain power and financial. The smaller country will look for ally to protect their country. This is the same goes for war. Which ever stronger will take over the weak one.

    As reading through this article I feel much politic and it remain until today as how we see CTA operate with their violent act. The US has always been around to protect their interest and join in with the country that they can gain benefit to suppress other giant country which they felt as threat.

    Choosing war is never a good solution as it will just create more suffering. Seeing how Tibet involve in this just added my sadden to them but no surprise as CTA has always been like that.

    My question is just that how long more that CTA think they still can get the support from US and how long more they think violent can improve their governance as they as just so small and without the support from US they are going down with their current act.

  7. vajra-NMD

    April 11, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    An interesting article to read about, because in my mind, i always thought that CIA and FBI are just to protect USA and against terrorism activities since after Cold War ( 1947 – 1991 ).

    I found out from another website: The CIA conducted a large scale covert action campaign against the communist Chinese in Tibet starting in 1956. This led to a disastrous bloody uprising in 1959, leaving tens of thousands of Tibetans dead, while the Dalai Lama and about 100,000 followers were forced to flee across the treacherous Himalayan passes to India and Nepal.

  8. Belinda Mae

    April 11, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    When are the Tibetans going to stand up for themselves and fight back their rights and peace? Why must they have link with the CIA? What benefits do they get? On the other hand, CTA is not helping their own Tibetans at all. At the end of the day, only the big players like India and US get to say whether or not they want to help the Tibetans. The Tibetans must really start to think for themselves already. Is it worth to be supporting the CTA?

  9. Tianni

    April 11, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Tibetan people themselves was just trapped between an oppressive China and a manipulative US. CIA’s involvement with the Free Tibet Movement and its funding looks like aimed at serving American interests rather than helping the Tibetans in any lasting way. US may just using Tibet as an active front against the China .Once American policy toward China changed, they will stop help. Sad to has government like CTA which after so many years no improvement of free Tibet.

  10. Vajra10

    April 11, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    There no need to categorise people into various groups by their appearance, for instance, skin colours, religions, classes and more.

    BECAUSE everyone of us are the SAME! Everyone of us are filled with selfishness and greedinees, hence, wars have never been able to stop for centuries. Untraceable amount of people have lost their lives during wars until this very new second, people are suffering at places that we would never want to go.

    It’s really worth it to be the monopoly and leave everything behind?

  11. Wisdommind

    April 11, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    These article has show how CIA at the pass has using Tibetan people to fright again China. No mater how China has growth even stronger these day because China has improve their policy give more freedom for spiritual practice. Rebuilt holy palaces at Tibet.Improve education and transport system. As the result Tibet has improve in their economy and Tibetan can have better life unlike before. CTA has choose the wrong side at the pass making enemy with China and never make friendship with China. I hope CTA realise who iis their real friend don’t making more mistake. If CTA want to live peacefully at India, them themselve have to stop irritating China, make peace with their neighbourd contries to get help and support including China.

  12. Pema

    April 11, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    It is on one hand astonishing to read that Tibet in involved with the CIA and a Secret War but then again this is related to politics and politics is about power, secrets and how to gain more power. That Tibetans serve in the Indian Army seems normal as they live in India and benefit from Indias kindness to give them a place to stay.

    Yet, I believe that no war will end the difficulties but it obviously increases the suffering of so many people. We should use our mind and find ways to solve differences in a peaceful way. This way would serve everyone instead of killing people which only creates more hate and vulnerability.

  13. Lolitta Chow

    April 11, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    I have always wonder why how did CTA get funding from USA all these years, although CTA was expelled from Tibet, but USA still sponsor them, it make me wonder, what can CTA do for USA in their situation like this?

    It explained here that during the invasion from China, USA funded and recruited the Tibetans to work for CIA and to prevent China from invasion, are they really there to protect Tibet from invasion or they have other motive?

    Politics has always been very dark and everyone only work from their selfish need, they do not care about others benefit or welfare. Same to what CTA done to Dorje Shugden practitioners, and them going against China. They do so much harm to their own people to get benefit to their own, can you imagine that? A country’s leader is harming their own citizen to get own benefit, they don’t even care about their people, they don’t even care about the country, what they interested is only money, money and money.

    This also showed that China is really powerful, no one country or anyone who can go against them to to put them down, no matter how many people trying to attack China, they are being put down instead. Poor Tibet being used by the big countries surrounding. I wonder will one day, this world will be free from politics, and by then, people will suffer much less.

  14. Brian Little

    April 11, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    This is nothing new. The world’s super power trying to make use of smaller nations to generate income and ultimate influence in this so called smaller nation. At first people tend to think or made to think CIA or other intelligence of a country are supposedly the good team but it is not necessarily so. There are some dept within the intelligence who are supposed to wage wars. In this instance, Tibet was up for grabs so called because it is supposedly one of the main gateway for war to enter China. It is supposed to be a threat that China have to find ways to take it in order to protect their own country. US have no intention to take Tibet probably because Tibet has no natural resources and it is not feasible to do so.

    Controversies aside, the situation for CTA meanwhile, they have to find a backer who can help raise their voice to the rest of the world. Play the pity card, get funding to fund their so called cause. To have an ally like CTA is US’s gain. At least you have another friend rather than another enemy. It makes sense for me because Tibetans are taking shelter in India and India are known to be against China. This sort of forged US’s influence against China in the region because Nepal like every other neighbouring nations are reaping the benefits from China. God knows how much CTA have been receiving donations from others but nothing seemed to have worked for its cause to reclaim Tibet till this day. Certainly a lot of questions to be answered but it seems like will never be answered.

  15. Camillia

    April 13, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Noting the many covert political games and espionages in history, I can understand the motivation behind and the need to use tactics that turn foes or opportunist to allies. However, one would never expect the Dalai Lama to mix religion with politics. In fact, by doing so, it became the the most unwitty part of this whole drama. His Holiness should keep them separate so that the religion trump card can be an exit route for him should the complot with the CIA fail.

    The Tibetan cause is depressing because it keeps chasing a ghost, the ghost of the China under Mao who was being alleged of all the misdeeds. Everyone fighting for this cause live under this curse and refuse to wake up. Today, China is strong, beautiful and embrace freedom much better than many countries in the world. There are opportunity for growth and development in all social aspect, which includes economy, spiritual and education.

    On the other hand, the lame manifesto of the Tibet’s cause pale in comparison. What can an independant landlocked Tibet do? So, it really boils down to how much His Holiness care for his people who stood by him but continue to be trapped by poverty and underdevelopment. The political advisors should stop focusing on securing PR-ship in the West for themselves and family members but on protecting the interest of His Holiness who represents the religion with 2500 years of history as well as the interest of the people at large.

  16. sushilla

    April 27, 2017 at 5:14 am

    I guess during the time of urgency and desperation one can make the wrong decisions. It is clear up to today that collaboration with other countries (which have their own agendas) has not brought any good results towards the goal of claiming autonomy for Tibet. I wouldn’t say there has not been any benefits ; the benefits went mainly to mostly material benefits via CTA and FREE TIBET. is there transparency on how these material donations were used? Maybe these organisations should share their financial statements openly.
    As for gaining autonomy on Tibet, it’s far from achieving this. In fact the Tibetans are now paying the price of wrong decisions made by the authorities in the past.
    Real mistakes are being swept under the carpet and on top of it CONTROVERSIES are being concocted to distract people from the truth. These sort of lies and controversies will only continue to make the innocent suffer and Tibet still remains in the hands of others. Sad!!

  17. Elibuchen

    May 6, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Tibet remains a pawn of the Indians, Chinese and any other geopoliticial force that can manipulate them with the promise of independence.

    60 years and CTA is no step closer to any kind of political solution. Perhaps a foray into uniting Tibetans as a whole, those in exile could make Tibet a lot less vulnerable to the manipulations of powers that want to have an upperhand in the region of Tibet.

  18. Pema Norbu

    September 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

    You have to see this clear video showing His Holiness the Dalai Lama asking the monasteries to expel monks that practice Dorje Shugden. Click here to watch:

  19. TseringD, Delhi

    October 29, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Nechung is ZUMA 👎 before I m think he is one of d best when I m watch dis video By Geshe Dorjee la but now I m think is not d truth n he is lie to Tibet people we r not back to Tibet yt Chithue Tenpa Yarphel la tq for talk about truth of Nechung . I m watch to this video many time la n after I hear you talk I m not belief to Nechung

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