Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday met the kith and kin of legendary Indian physician Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis at Taj Mahal Palace hotel here and said the Indian doctor was a “symbol” of India-China friendship.

Dr. Kotnis rose to fame for the services he provided to a war-ravaged China during the second Sino-Japanese war in 1938. He, along with Canadian Norman Bethune, was often perceived as a mascot for India-China friendship and collaboration.

“It was a most pleasant meeting. The Premier said he [Dr. Kotnis] is a symbol of India-China friendship ... this very word, ‘symbol’, covers the gamut of emotions about Dr. Kotnis, I guess,” said 92-year old Manorama Kotnis. .

The wheelchair-bound Ms. Kotnis, accompanied by other family members, said that the Chinese Premier spoke, during their 20-minute interaction, of the high regard and admiration that the Chinese people had for Dr. Kotnis and his work.

“He recollected my brother’s contribution towards China,” said Ms. Kotnis, adding that Mr. Li was generous to invite her family to visit China.

This special meeting with the good doctor’s family was an iteration of a tradition that visiting Premiers and Presidents of China had kept alive for decades. Earlier, in 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao had similarly called on Dr. Kotnis’ relatives, remarking at the time that Dr. Kotnis would always be a “bridge” between China and India.

Last year, the Chinese government said it would like to finance the modernisation of the government hospital in Sindhudurg district’s Vengurla on condition that it be named after Dr. Kotnis.

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