India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is The Straits Times Asian of the Year 2014

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi enters the House of Representatives to make a speech in Australia's Parliament House in Canberra on Nov 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi enters the House of Representatives to make a speech in Australia's Parliament House in Canberra on Nov 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is The Straits Times Asian of the Year 2014.

The editors of the paper picked the development focused Indian leader, who fashioned an impressive election victory for his party in the national election that ended in May, from a rich field of contesting names.

Last year's award was shared by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China's President Xi Jinping. The inaugural award, in 2012, went to Myanmar's Thein Sein.

The Straits Times' choice of Mr Modi as Asian of the Year was based on several factors. Politically and socially, he has energised India with his stirring calls for a development focus and "toilets before temples". On the economy, his call for a Make in India campaign, if pursued to its logical conclusion with a friendlier investment climate and less rigid labour norms, could help fire up the growth engines of the US$2 trillion economy and provide welcome ballast to the region when China, the No. 1 Asian economy, is slowing and Japan, the No. 2, is in recession.

"Economists project that as early as next year, India could pick up the growth baton from China. Given its huge market, its travellers who fill up hotel rooms and cruise ship cabins from Singapore to Sydney, its hunger for capital goods and commodities, a resurgent India will be a boon for the region and the world," the editors said in their citation. "As much for his performance as a growth-focused provincial administrator as for the promise of what is to come for India under his leadership, The Straits Times declares Mr Modi Asian of the Year."

Singapore has seen potential in Mr Modi long before the world sat up and took notice.

In early 2006, then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong led a Singapore delegation to Gujarat. Mr Modi himself has been here, studying the Singapore development model. In June this year, days after Mr Modi took office, Foreign Minister K Shanmugam was the first senior Asian figure to get a direct meeting with Mr Modi in New Delhi. Singapore is the partner country for next month's Vibrant Gujarat convention, a biennial summit for investors.


"I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on this award. It reflects high expectation all round, not just from within India, on his stirring leadership to bring decisive reforms to his country. In my interactions with PM Modi over the years, I have been impressed with his pragmatism, bold ideas and determination to get things done. PM Modi is also keen to impart dynamism to the strategic partnership between Singapore and India. We welcome and join him in this endeavour."- Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong


Mr Modi is the first Indian prime minister born after the nation's independence in 1947. Despite being relatively new to the job he has already made a mark on Asia, reaching out to neighbours and receiving national leaders including Australia's Tony Abbott and China's Xi. In January, he will receive US President Barack Obama. He also had a highly successful visit to Japan for a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times, said: "Last year, when we named President Xi and Prime Minister Abe as joint winners, we recognised the two leaders' commitments to fulfil national aspirations. At the same time, the award came with the call to both to work together to lower tensions and to consider a summit meeting. We were gratified that the two finally shook hands and sat down together in November."

For the same reason, Mr Fernandez added, the award to Mr Modi is as much a recognition of his record as an administrator who has propelled his home state, Gujarat, to global attention, as for the promise of re-energising larger India."

velloor@sph.com.sg