Singapore, Dec 5: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been named The Straits Times "Asian of the Year 2014" for being a "development-focused" leader who also fashioned an impressive victory for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the year's national elections.
"Despite being relatively new to the job, he (Modi) 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," the newspaper said.
"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."
Terming Modi, 64, as the first Indian premier to be born after the nation's independence, the paper said its editors picked him for a host of factors, notably his campaigns such as "Toilets before Temples" and "Make in India" that have energised India socially and politically.
The paper said if his "Make in India" campaign is pursued with friendlier investment climate and less rigid labour norms, it could fire the growth of this $2 trillion economy and the region at large, especially when China as number one is slowing and Japan as number two is in recession.
"Economists project that as early as next year, India could pick up the growth baton from China," the paper said in a statement, reproducing the citation of its editors while conferring Modi with the award.
"Given its huge market, its travellers who fill up hotel rooms and cruise ships from Singapore to Sydney, its hunger for capital goods and commodities, a resurgent India will be a boon for the region and the world," it said.
"In the six months he has been in office, the count'y's key stock index has treaded record highs. Investors are beginning to return to India. If a single person is responsible for this, it is Modi," it said.
"As much for his (Modi's) 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi Asian of the Year for 2014."
The editors also noted with satisfaction Modi's priority to build ties in India's much neglected immediate neighbourhood, while promising at the Asean summit in Myanmar last month a new era of partnership to translate India's "Look East" policy into an "Act East" policy.
The paper said it was also cognizant of the criticism and concern that has been voiced about Modi's handling of the communal violence that took place in Gujarat in his first months as chief minister.
"We also note that Gujarat, under Modi, has had a healthy period of communal peace since," it said, adding his development focus, the emphasis on cleanliness and the protection of women are helping the vast nation focus on a better life and equal opportunities for all its citizens.
Editor Warren Fernandez said when President Xi and Prime Minister Abe were last year named joint winners, it was in recognition that they will be committed to fulfilling their national aspirations.
"At the same time, the award came with the call to both leaders to work together to lower tensions between their two nations and to consider a summit meeting. We were gratified to see that the two finally shook hands and sat down together in November," Fernandez said.
For the same reason, he added, the award to Modi is as much a recognition of his record as a strong administrator who has propelled his home state, Gujarat, to global attention, as for the promise of re-energising larger India.
"Modi has got India and the world excited about his country's prospects again," he said.
"He has given his people a renewed sense of direction and purpose, and there are hopeful signs that he is minded to using his strong mandate to good effect in one of Asia's major powers. We wish him and India every success."