Japan Sagar/ East Sea Controversy, and functions of Survey of India


Japan Sagar/ East Sea Controversy, and functions of Survey of India

  1. What is Surveyor General of India?
  2. Functions of Surveyor General of India?
  3. What is Sea of Japan/East Sea?
  4. Why Japan Sagar controversy?
  5. Arguments: Japan vs S.Korea
  6. India’s Stand on Sea of Japan
  7. Food for thought
  8. Mock Questions

What is Surveyor General of India?

  • Survey of India =India’s official map-making agency.
  • under the Department of Science & Technology
  • HQ= Dehra Dun
  • Officers are appointed through Indian Engineering Services Examination conducted by UPSC.
  • Their main boss = Surveyor General of India.


  1. Acts as adviser to the Government of India on all survey matters.
  2. Produces Geographical maps and Aeronautical Charts.
  3. Demarcates the External Boundaries of India.
  4. Advice on the demarcation of inter-state boundaries.
  5. Predicts tides at various ports.
  6. Publishes Tide Table one year in advance to support navigational activities.
  7. Certifies maps published by private publishers.
  8. Surveys for Developmental Projects.
  9. Research and Development in Digital Mapping.

What is Sea of Japan/East Sea?

  • A marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean
  • It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea.

Sea of Japan / East Sea

Japan Sagar controversy?

  • Survey of India, has omitted naming this sea/water body in its English version, though the Hindi one calls the area ‘Japan Sagar’ on its maps.
  • Japan has protested against this.
  • In case you wonder, what is there in a “name”, well recall the earlier article Liancourt Rocks/ Takeshima/ Dokdo Islets Dispute Between Japan and South Korea (Click Me)
  • Sea of Japan has valuable fishing grounds.
  • The seabed of the area contains vast, untapped reserves of gas hydrates.
  • So it is not just about a name but about the money involved as well.

Arguments: Japan vs S.Korea



  • term “Sea of Japan” came to be used while Korea was under Japanese rule (around WW2),
  • otherwise originally, this water body was called  ‘Sea of Korea’ or ‘East Sea’.
United Nations recognised “Sea of Japan” as the standard geographical term in March 2004. The term used by UN Secretariat to refer to a place, does not in any way constitute an official position or policy.
But the governments of the US, the UK, France, Germany and China also use the name “Sea of Japan”! Ya but governments of these countries have officially stated that naming the sea area between the Korea and Japan should be settled by agreement among the countries concerned.
  • The International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) Resolution provides that if two or countries share a given geographical feature for which they cannot agree on a common name, each of the names should be used to refer to that geographical feature.
  • So if you want to use the term “Sea of Japan”, you must simultaneously call it “East Sea”.

India’s Stand on Sea of Japan

  • Ministry of External Affairs clarified on the issue, “As far as India is concerned, there is no change in our policy. Name of that water body is Sea of Japan.”
  • But at the same time, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is unlikely to pursue the matter with the Survey of India. (however Japanese Embassy would take up the issue to Surveyor General).

Food for thought

  • India can hardly claim that Japan is over-reacting when it is so quick to take umbrage over cartographical errors, deliberate and otherwise, related to its territories. (Maps showing Azad Kashmir or Arunanchal Pradesh shown in China).
  • It is not uncommon for countries to fight their battles over disputed territories by proxy, through maps. But sometimes maps can solve as many problems as they create.
  • Recall the earlier article on Senkaku/Diaoyu islands (China vs Japan) click ME
  • At the height of that dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea, Apple’s new mapping software presented a novel solution: duplication.
  • It simply showed two sets of the islands appearing next to each other — one for Japan and one for China!

Mock Questions

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. Sea of Japan is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia, China and South Korea.
  2. Survey General of India, is responsible for predicting tides at ports and preparing tide-tables for navigational purposes.
  3. Surveyor General of India, falls under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  4. Anthropological Survey of India is a premier research organisation under the Ministry of Culture
  5. Botanical Survey of India (BSI) is the apex research organization under the Ministry of Agriculture.


  1. Survey of India (5 marks)
  2. International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) (5 marks)
  3. Discuss Indo-Japan relations, in the light of DMIC, NPT and Sea of Japan. (25 marks)


  1. Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.
  2. Maps can solve as many problems as they create.


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