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CHELSEA CHARMS CROWDS ON TRIP TO INDIA, S. ASIA

Spring break is turning into an international coming-out party for 15-year-old Chelsea Clinton.

The only child of Bill and Hillary Clinton, protectively shielded from the spotlight at home, is emerging as a poised junior diplomat on her mother's tour of the Indian subcontinent.Photos beamed home from the other side of the world show her side by side with her mother in every setting from the top of an elephant to opulent official dinners, clearly fascinated at all she is seeing.

Her wonderment comes through in the questions she asks and the careful eye with which she studies her surroundings.

Touring the dusty village of Moishahati Monday, both mother and daughter found themselves surrounded by adoring women and children who decorated their foreheads with the traditional teep - a red dot for Hillary Clinton, green for Chelsea. The mark once signaled whether a woman was married or single but now is worn for decorative purposes.

Visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in New Delhi, India, Chelsea quietly questioned the nuns about adoption procedures before expertly cuddling a baby in front of the cameras.

Touring the splendor of the pearl-white Taj Mahal, Chelsea described the building as "the embodiment of the fairy-tale palace" of her younger days.

"I would see pictures of it and I would dream I was a princess or whatever," she recalled, "and now that I am here it's spectacular."

Visiting the sprawling Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, it was Chelsea who asked the most detailed questions.

Having studied Islam in history class at school, she engaged one of the scholars one-on-one while her mother conversed with another guide. And when White House aides working on a speech needed to double-check a reference in the Koran, it was Chelsea who readily produced one she had brought from home.

The first daughter sometimes breaks off on her own - security guards in tow - to explore these exotic Asian settings at her own pace. She headed off on an elephant Sunday morning while her mother went hiking. More often than not, though, she has elected to accompany her mother from one official event to the next, to the delight of their hosts.

The exposure is an abrupt change of pace for a tenth-grader who attends private school and has been surprisingly protected from the spotlight during the first two years of her father's presidency.