Tiny, crescent-shaped sandspit formed about 10 years ago in the Bay of Bengal is the current focus of bad blood between India and Bangladesh with each having sent gunboats into the area to reinforce conflicting claims on the island.
India appears to have won the first round, landing a detachment of its paramilitary Border Security Force and hoisting its flag over the disputed island, which has an area of less than two square miles at low tide. Bangladesh, far smaller and weaker than India, denounced this action as "naked aggression."
Bangladesh's foreign minister, Shamsul Haq, arrived in New Delhi today for talks with Indian authorities to try to decide the fate of the tiny hump of sand and slush, which India calls New Moore Island and Bangladesh calls South Talpatty Island.
The island is considered worthless. But any new national boundaries that arise from the determination of its ownership could give India or Bangladesh title to thousands of square miles of ocean floor and the oil, natural gas or other mineral wealth that might be found under it.
Both sides have displayed photographs taken from U.S. space satellites to press their claims, which depend on the main channel of the Hariabhanga River that flows along their border. One problem, however, is that the river continually shifts course in the swampy estuary that marks its entrance into the Bay of Bengal.
This is the latest episode in strained relations between the two countries since India in 1971 played a major role in helping Bangladesh--then East Pakistan--separate itself from Pakistan.
Those halcyon days of 1971 are barely remembered in Dacca today, however, as a strain of anti-Indian feeling appears to have become pervasive.
Last year, public opinion in Bangladesh forced the government to drop plans to sell natural gas to India because of a strong feeling that India could not be trusted.
India, however, blames the current surge of ill feeling on Bangladesh's political instability following the assassination in May of its popular president, Ziaur Rahman.
This internal instability led the Dacca government to aggressively push its differences with India, officials here said.
Nonetheless, it appears that India has taken the lead in forcing its claim to ownership of the island, which is believed to have sprung up in 1971 as a result of great tidal action.
India detected the land first and claimed ownership in 1971.
"This was at a time," Bangladesh said in an official white paper, "when the entire people of Bangladesh were engaged in a life-or-death struggle during its war of independence."
It took seven years for Bangladesh to assert its claim to the island, which sits about 2 1/2 miles off the shore of India and about four miles from Bangladesh's shore.