Otis, who planned to sell the items to promote pacifism, said a preliminary deal had been reached hours before the auction was set to start on Thursday in New York.

The collapse of the agreement may now force India to enter the auction.

Gandhi's spectacles, a pair of worn leather sandals, a pocket watch and a brass bowl and plate were to be sold with an estimated starting bid ranging from $20,000 to $30,000.

The final price, however, could be substantially higher.

Opposition 

The auction has raised protests across India, which have forced the government to try to bring the leader's items, considered the country's national heritage, back to his homeland.  

Gandhi's family has also opposed the auction.

Ambika Soni, India's culture minister, said the government would bid for the items and "offer whatever it takes".

"The bottom line is to procure the memorabilia," Soni said.

Mahatma Gandhi led India's peaceful independence movement against British rule and was assassinated in New Delhi in 1948.