In the coming 12 months, India and China have agreed to boost economic, cultural and people-to-people links.

India and China on Friday launched "a year of friendly exchanges", with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao calling on both countries to "properly handle" persisting issues such as the boundary dispute.

Mr. Li, a senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official who sits on the 25-member Politburo, said at an event to mark the coming year of exchanges that the Chinese leadership was of the view that both sides needed to make "joint efforts to expand strategic mutual trust and properly handle issues left over from history".

In the coming 12 months, India and China have agreed to boost economic, cultural and people-to-people links.

Mr. Li agreed to attend the launch event at the last minute, officials said. The launch of the year of exchanges was held along with a banquet to mark India's Republic Day.

Indian officials said a Chinese official of Vice Foreign Minister rank was slated to attend the event, as was the normal practice for Republic Day and National Day banquets. That a senior Politburo member attended the event, breaking from the usual protocol, was "a good signal" from the Chinese leadership, officials said. Mr. Li is expected to join the elite seven-member Politburo Standing Committee when five of the current members step down in 2017.

Mr. Li said the new Party leadership, which took over in November 2012, firmly followed “the principle of developing friendship and partnership with neighbours.”

Indian Ambassador to China Ashok Kantha, who took over earlier this month, said Mr. Li's attendance reflected "the high importance attached by China to friendship between our two countries."

Rich harvest in relations

"The year 2013 was a year of rich harvest in our relations," he said, pointing to the recent visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Beijing and the May visit by the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India, which marked the "first time in 59 years that the two Prime Ministers exchanged visits within the same calendar year".

"This year," he added, "we would like to build on these strong foundations. We are taking the first step today by launching the India-China Year of Friendly Exchanges."