Sunday Levity: The Tibetans mean war

How to justify an invasion (1903 edition)

Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, and Francis Younghusband, intrepid adventurer, were itching to go through with their pet project of invading Tibet. The British government in London, though, unconvinced that the Russians were on the verge of marching into Lhasa, had held back permission.

Lord Curzon’s finest piece of diplomatic casuistry takes the form of a despatch which relates not to trade, or spies, or people, but rather to the bovine inhabitants of High Asia. ‘4 November 1903: Tibet,’ wrote the Viceroy. ‘We now learn that Tibetan troops attacked Nepalese yaks on the frontier and carried many of them off. This is an overt act of hostility’.

Curzon was willing to use almost any excuse to obtain sanction for a further advance into Tibet, so certain was he that the Russian Bear needed to be checked. [Patrick French in Younghusband]

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