George Yeo will be new chancellor of India's Nalanda University

India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced on Saturday that former Singapore foreign minister George Yeo will be the new chancellor of Nalanda University.

He takes over on July 17 from Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen who had announced in February that he would step down after his term expires in July. 

Mr Yeo, 60, has been one of the movers of a project to revive Nalanda University, the ancient seat of learning in Bihar state, and is part of a 12-member governing board.

Dr Sen decided to step down after accusing the Indian government of political interference in the running of the university

He had spearheaded efforts to revive Nalanda University which once attracted scholars from countries as far away as China and Turkey until it was burnt down by invaders in 1193.

The project was announced in 2006 and it received support from Singapore and the East Asia Summit, an Asean-led regional grouping. In 2012, Dr Sen took charge as the university's first chancellor.

But issues over funding and levels of autonomy had been areas of discord between Dr Sen and the previous government. In February last year, the previous Congress government approved 27 billion rupees (S$572 million) in expenditure until the financial year 2021/2022 and, as a result of the significant financial backing, wanted greater oversight of the running of the university.

But Dr Sen wanted full autonomy, arguing that it was an international project.

He will continue to serve on the governing board.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg