HYDERABAD, India (AFP) - The Aga Khan, billionaire spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, has laid the foundation stone for a 50-million-dollar educational centre in southern India.
"The key to future progress in the developing world will be its ability to identify, to develop, and to retain expert and effective home-grown leadership," said the Aga Khan at the ceremony in Hyderabad.
"Too many of those who ought to be leading their communities in the hopeful world of tomorrow are being left behind in the real world of today."
The coeducational school will initially enroll 750 students from primary to high school age but hopes to expand to 1,200 students, the Aga Khan foundation said.
The school, due to begin academic lessons in 2009, will be built on 100 acres (40 hectares) of land donated by the government of southern Andhra Pradesh state in the capital Hyderabad.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and its partners "will invest tens of millions of dollars in the construction and operation of the academy," the statement added.
The school is part of an international network of academies the foundation is building.
"We are often told these days that tension and violence in much of the world grows out of some fundamental clash of civilizations .. in my view, it is a clash of ignorances which is to blame," said the Ismaili leader.
"The academies will seek to remedy such ignorances through the broad study of a variety of world cultures, including the study of Muslim civilizations, a subject which is often overlooked in some parts of the world today."
The Aga Khan arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday and during his stay in the Indian capital held talks with India's president Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chief of the Congress party Sonia Gandhi, a government spokesman said.
He was due to wrap up his visit later this week.
In India, the Agha Khan's development works have spanned a broad spectrum -- health, rural development, education, environment and cultural programmes -- since the early 1980s.
The Aga Khan last visited India in November 2004 to hand out his development agency's triennial architectural awards.
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