Officials said this was the first time China deputed a high-ranking leader like the Vice President to the reception to show the importance it attaches to emerging ties with India.

An official of the rank of Vice Foreign Minister attended previous Republic Day receptions.

"China will make joint efforts with India to strengthen strategic mutual trust, expand friendly exchanges and cooperation, properly handle issues left over from history and strengthen cooperation in major and regional issues and take our strategic partnership to new heights," Li said.

"Friendship, mutually beneficial cooperation and common development will truly create benefits for 2.5 billion Indian and Chinese people and make contribution to peace, stability and prosperity of Asia and the whole world. This year China will commemorate the 60th year of Pachasheel, five principles, along with Myanmar," he added.

During the reception hosted by new Indian Ambassador Ashok K Kantha, Li formally inaugurated the Year of Friendly Exchanges that was agreed during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here last year to boost bilateral understanding and cooperation.

Highlighting the importance of growing relations between the two countries, Li said they have vast potential and broad prospects for cooperation.

He also said China-India relations faced new development opportunities.

Kantha, in his address, described 2013 as a year of rich harvest in India-China relations. He referred to Singh's two meetings with President Xi Jinping last year and the mutual exchange of visits by the two prime ministers in the same calendar year for the first time in 59 years.

He expressed his determination to build on these strong foundations and strengthen India-China strategic partnership.

A performance of Indian dance and music by a ICCR troupe was also organized on the occasion. About 1,000 guests, including diplomats, Chinese officials and Indian expatriates, attended the event.

A similar function is expected to be organized by the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi next month to formally inaugurate the Year of Friendly Exchanges there.

(Agencies)

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