In India the exploits of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis have been largely forgotten, but not in China.
Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao met nine members of Kotnis's family in Mumbai Thursday to pay homage to the heroic acts of the doctor almost 70 years ago.
During a 30-minute meeting, Hu presented the family with an album of photographs of the doctor's time in China, said Kotnis's sister, Manorama Kotnis, 85. Media were barred from the meeting.
Responding to a plea from China for help in its fight against occupying Japanese forces, Kotnis, along with four other Indian doctors, went to China in 1938. There he became an icon.
"The Chinese people still remember Dr. Kotnis. He will always be a link between China and India," Manorama Kotnis quoted Hu as saying.
The family gave Hu a copy of a 1946 Bollywood movie "Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani" ("The Immortal Story of Dr. Kotnis") and a traditional quilt made in the town of his birth, she said.
Speaking before meeting Hu, she said she hoped reviving the story of her brother would provide inspiration for improving ties between India and China.
"Young people will be inspired by his story. They could also learn how good relations between India and China were then," said Manorama Kotnis, surrounded by fraying albums of black and white photographs of her brother treating Chinese soldiers.
The family home in downtown Mumbai is filled with pictures and wax statues of Kotnis.
Kotnis distinguished himself on the front lines in northern China, where he treated hundreds of patients in mobile clinics in the midst of battles and trained young people to assist him in operations.
Kotnis died in 1942 at the age of 32 after an epileptic seizure.
He married a Chinese woman Guo Qinglan a year previously, and they had a son who died at age 24. Guo has visited India and stayed in the Kotnis home in Mumbai.
China has repeatedly honored Kotnis, for whom there is a large memorial and a small museum at China's Martyrs' Memorial Park. A stamp was issued in his honor and his work is taught in school textbooks, reports AP.
Most official Chinese visitors to India visit the family to pay their respects.
"They want to keep his memory alive," said Manorama Kotnis, who has visited China several times at the invitation of the state. "There is so much love, admiration and respect for him there."
This visit comes as China and India are forging stronger ties after long-held tensions over the 1962 border war fought by the two countries.
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