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Home / India News / Dr Kotnis a reminder that in medical crises - it’s Indo-China bhai, bhai

Dr Kotnis a reminder that in medical crises - it’s Indo-China bhai, bhai

Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis went to China as part of a medical mission in 1938 to aid reparation of soldiers during the second Sino-Japan war. A statue in China pays testimony to Dr Kotnis’ service. As China battles another medical emergency, India is at the ready with aid and service, much like the middle-class, Solapur-born, Maharashtrian doctor 32 years ago

india Updated: Feb 12, 2020 21:11 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times
People pass by a screen warning about a new coronavirus in a subway station in Seoul, South Korea.
People pass by a screen warning about a new coronavirus in a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)

The Coronavirus outbreak struck China just ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday season in the world’s most populous country. The outbreak of the 2019 nCoV is now a global crisis, with the international agencies still debating the pandemic moniker. The death toll as of February 11 crossed 900.

India has offered assistance, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaching out to Chinese President Xi Jinping. But, this isn’t the first time India has offered help.

Dwarkanath S Kotnis, an Indian doctor born in a middle-class Maharashtrian family in Solapur went to China in 1938 – nine years before India’s independence.

Dr Kotnis graduated from the Seth GS Medical College in Mumbai and was preparing for his Master’s when Subhash Chandra Bose made an appeal for doctors to go to China to help. Dr Kotnis was part of medical mission to offer health assistance to wounded and plague-stricken Chinese soldiers during the second Sino-Japan war.

Kotnis served on the frontline and treated many soldiers while saving lives of hundreds in China.

Dr Kotnis’ commitment to the cause was such that he fell ill and eventually died in 1942 at the age of 32.

During his four-year stay in China, Dr Kotnis fell in love with a nurse Quo Qunglan, who worked under him treating soldiers. Later they married and had a son

After Dr Kotnis’ death, Quo stayed back in China looking after their only son.

The doctor is not a widely known figure back home, except that there is a memorial to him in Solapur built by the local civic body.

In China, Dr Kotnis is revered as hero and has memorial with a statue built in a park in Shijiazhuang city of the northern Chinese province of Hebei. The Chinese government also has a stamp bearing Dr Kotnis’ picture.

It is for the same reason Chinese premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Indian in May 2013 took a break from his schedule and met Dr Kotnis’ family members in Mumbai, a symbolic moment of appreciation for services rendered by an Indian doctor decades earlier. “The Indo-Chinese friendship has been strengthened by the contribution of late Dr Dwarkadas Kotnis, who rendered humanitarian help in China,” Li has said then.

Dr Kotnis’ sister, Manorama, has, in multiple media interactions reiterated that at the time her brother went to China little was known about the country.

Eighty-two years later, China is well known today and is facing another medical emergency. India, in the spirit of Dr Kotnis, is ready and on hand to help.