(dpa) - India has decided to settle a six-decade-old dispute with Pakistan over a royal legacy of more than 25 million pounds lying frozen in a London bank, news reports said Saturday.
When the British rulers left India in 1947, more than 100 principalities were still ruled by princes who were given the choice of acceding to either independent India or Pakistan.
The Muslim ruler of the southern Indian principality of Hyderabad, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, found it difficult to decide whether he should join the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or go with India, where his tiny kingdom would be landlocked by Indian states.
Meanwhile, his finance minister WAs said to have transferred 1,007,940 pounds and nine shillings in 1948 to a bank account of Pakistan's then high commissioner in London.
The Indian government, which soon forced the nizam to accede to the Indian Union, objected to the transfer and the account was frozen.
The nizam's subsequent requests for transferring the money back was ignored. This led to litigation by various claimants in British courts, including India, Pakistan and the nizam's many heirs.
The matter was complicated by the fact that Osman Ali, the seventh and last nizam of Hyderabad, had a large harem of more than 80 women and is said to have sired more than 100 children.
The "Hyderabad funds case" reached the British House of Lords as well, which concluded in 1957 that the account could be "unfrozen" only with the agreement of all the parties.
India's federal cabinet on Friday approved an out of court settlement with Pakistan and the nizam's heirs.
"We decided to restart the negotiation process with Pakistan to know how much the private beneficiary should get and what would be the distribution between the two governments," Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal was quoted as saying by The Times of India newspaper after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
A family member of the Hyderabad royals was quoted as saying that in 2002, the total number of the last nizam's sons, daughters and grandchildren were 479. At least 300, divided into five groups, are expected to lay claim to the prize, The Times of India said.
The seventh and last nizam's eldest grandson, who inherited most of his legendary wealth, now lives in Turkey with his fifth wife and is said to be near bankrupt.
Four expensive divorce settlements, along with a lavish lifestyle has wiped out most of his inheritance, according to his family friends.
But his grandfather, the last nizam - India abolished royal titles after independence - is said to have followed a rather austere lifestyle despite his legendary wealth.
According to those documenting the Hyderabad royal line, he wore the same tattered fez for 35 years and ate off a tin plate on a mat on his bedroom floor. His only extravagance was his many "wives" for each of whom he made generous settlements.
The Indian government acquired the famed Nizam's jewel collection, built over two centuries, from the trust which is in charge of the family's assets for 135 million dollars in 1995.
The 173-piece collection is kept in a special vault of India's Federal Reserve Bank in Mumbai and is exhibited rarely under heavy security cover.
The collection includes the famous 185-carat Jacob diamond, which it is fabled the last nizam wrapped in newspaper and used as a paperweight.