Every December, the editors of The Straits Times pick an Asian whose work or actions has significantly impacted his own society or the wider Asian continent in the 12 months past. Last year, the Asian of the Year award was shared by President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. The inaugural award, in 2012, went to Prime Minister Thein Sein of Myanmar.
For 2014, the editors have picked Narendra Damodardas Modi, India's
development-focused prime minister who fashioned an impressive victory for his
Bharatiya Janata Party in the national election that ended in May.
Mr Modi, 64 years old, is the first Indian prime minister to be born after the
nation's independence from colonial rule 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 Xi Jinping of China and Tony Abbott of
Australia. He also has had a highly successful visit to Japan for a summit with
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In January, he will receive President Barack Obama of
the US, the first time that a US leader will be the chief guest at the Republic
Day celebrations of India.
The Straits Times editors' choice of Mr Modi as the 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.
Complete list of Bharat Ratna Awardees (1954-2016)