New Delhi: It has been a tradition with visiting Chinese leaders to meet the family of Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis and President Xi Jinping followed it by meeting the sister of the famed physician and recalling "the fine representative who gave his precious life in China".
For the meeting, the Chinese Consulate-General in Mumbai specially flew Kotnis's 93-year-old sister Manorama, who is wheel chair bound, and her family to Delhi so that Xi could meet and felicitate her.
Dr Kotnis, who is revered in China for his contributions, was an Indian physician who died while treating Chinese soldiers during the second China-Japan war in 1942.
"In the critical hour of Chinese people's war with Japanese aggression, the Indian medical mission travelled thousands of miles to assist us and fought shoulder to shoulder with people of my father's generation against Japanese fascists. The fine representative, young Dr Kotnis gave his precious life in China.
"General Mao Zedong once wrote in his honour 'The Chinese army has lot a helping hand, the nation a friend. Let us always bear in mind his international spirit,'" Xi said, remembering Kotnis.
Appreciating the gesture of the Chinese leadership who keeps meeting the family till date, Manorama, who has partially lost her vision, said, "Even when a new Consul- General takes charge in Mumbai, he comes to visit the family of Dr Kotnis."
"Till now, our extended family has visited China 20 times. They have maintained the warmth for all these years," said Rajan Borkar, son-in-law of Kotni's elder brother, whose family now takes care of Manorama.
Kotnis went to China in 1937 as part of an Indian medical mission after China was invaded by Japan. He served on the battlefield and saved lives of many Chinese soldiers. After working for four years in China, he fell ill and died at a young age of 32.
In China, Kotnis fell in love and married a Chinese nurse who worked with him. Quo Qinglan, who remained in China, died in 2012 in the city of Dalian. They also had a son, who was studying to become a doctor but he died when he was 24.
This is not a first time that a visiting Chinese leader has met the family of Kotnis. Last year, Premier Li Keqiang had met his family.
In 2006, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India, he met the family. In the past, the Kotnis family met with then premier Zhou Enlai in 1950, followed by president Jiang Zemin in 1996.