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Dalai Lama must balance politics, spiritual role

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No conventional political power

The Dalai Lama, who fully assumed his office 57 years ago, has scarcely any conventional political power: he controls no territory and heads an exiled government that no state recognizes.

Instead, he has parlayed a global moral authority matched only by Nelson Mandela into a commanding influence over world public opinion that sometimes has political consequences.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon last week exhorted Beijing to show restraint in dealing with Tibetan unrest, for example, and the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited the Dalai Lama at his Indian headquarters in Dharamsala on Friday to urge the world to "speak out against China." China responded harshly, accusing Mrs. Pelosi, a longtime critic of China, of disregarding the rioters' actions.

The Tibetan leader's insistence on his readiness to talk with the Chinese government and his nonviolent approach "play very well internationally," says Brahma Chellaney, a China analyst at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi think tank. "He has presented himself as a moderate, [even though] all he gets is oppression."

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