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India keen on trade deals with Britain, Oman early in Modi's probable third term, sources say

India's PM Modi speaks with the media inside the parliament premises, in New Delhi

By Shivangi Acharya

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to prioritise completion of free trade deals with Britain and Oman in the first 100 days of the next government if he wins upcoming elections as opinion polls predict, two government sources said.

Modi has asked Indian ministries to set annual goals for the next five years that will fit into a 100-day action plan as he chalks out a strategy to fuel further growth in Asia's third-largest economy.

Among its goals for the 100-day plan, the trade ministry aims to feature the pacts with Britain and Oman, as talks on both deals are in their final stages, said the sources, who have direct knowledge of the discussions.

They sought anonymity as details of the plan are private.

This month Modi identified integrating India into world trade as a key priority area in talks with senior government officials, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Some of the objectives will be discussed on May 1, when India will be in the middle of its seven-phase election, set to start on April 19 with vote-counting due on June 4, at which Modi will be seeking a rare third term.

The trade ministry and Modi's office, which will make a final decision on the priorities, did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Britain's department for business and trade said the two countries were "continuing to work towards an ambitious trade deal".

The spokesperson added, "Whilst we don't comment on the details of live negotiations, we are clear that we will only sign a deal that is fair, balanced and ultimately in the best interests of the British people and the economy."

Ahead of India's elections, both nations this month put on hold their two-year long negotiations without a deal, while reaffirming their commitment to a new pact aimed at doubling their trade by 2030. Britain also holds elections this year.

Reuters could not immediately contact an Oman official. The trade ministers of India and Oman met in December and said they had asked their negotiators to wrap up talks on a comprehensive pact so as to hasten signing of a deal.

Trade between the countries has more than doubled in two years to $12.39 billion in the last fiscal year.

(Reporting by Shivangi Acharya; Additional reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Sarita Chaganti Singh in New Delhi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)