The Dalai Lamas are spiritual leaders of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and are believed to be human embodiments of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
From the seventeenth century until 1959, the Dalai Lamas were the directors of the Tibetan government, administering a large portion of the area from the capital. After the Chinese assumed complete control of Tibet in 1959, the fourteenth Dalai Lama fled to India where he now resides as president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, while seeking peaceful means to gain greater autonomy for Tibet.
By the late nineteenth century the British Empire was encroaching from northern India into the Indian Himalayas, while Afghanistan and the Russian Empire were expanding into Central Asia. Each nation was suspicious of the others' intentions, and resorted to espionage to uncover information.