The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Officers implement Indian foreign policy through their diplomatic activities and promote national interest across the globe. Unlike the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) or an Indian Police Service (IPS), the Foreign Service Officer spends most of his/her time abroad and only one third of his/her career in India at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi.
The job of an IFS is wide ranging, covering political, economic and cultural sectors, not merely government agencies, but requires good cross cultural communication with people from different cultures and countries.
The present cadre strength of the IFS stands at approximately 600 officers manning around 162 Indian missions and posts abroad and the various posts in the Ministry of at home.
Let us now understand the Job Profile of an IFS
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Candidates for the Indian Foreign Service are recruited directly through Civil Services Examination held annually by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
In recent times, the intake into the Indian Foreign Service has averaged between 30-35 persons annually. In this regard, one has to be generally at the top of the ranking order in Civil Services Examination for a selection to IFS.
On selection to the Indian Foreign Service, the probationers commence their training, together with their colleagues from the other All India Services, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussourie. Thereafter the probationers join the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi and undergo training in the various disciplines that a career diplomat needs to familiarise him/herself with.
Proficiency in a Foreign Language
At the conclusion of the training programme, the officer is assigned his/her Compulsory Foreign Language (CFL). After a brief period of desk attachment in the Ministry of External Affairs the officer is posted to an Indian Mission abroad in a country where his CFL is the native language and enrolled in a language course. The officer is expected to develop proficiency in his CFL and pass the requisite examination before he is confirmed in service.
A Foreign Service Officer begins his career abroad as a Third Secretary and is promoted to Second Secretary as soon as his/her service is confirmed. Subsequent promotions are to the levels of First Secretary, Counsellor, and Ambassador, High Commissioner and Permanent Representative. Officers can also be posted to Indian Consulates abroad where the hierarchy is Vice-Consul, Consul and Consul General.
The hierarchy at the Ministry of External Affairs includes 6 stages: Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary.
A Foreign Service officer can serve as a Regional Passport Officer or can go on deputations to the Ministry of Defence, Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Commerce, Department of Space or the United Nations, World Bank and other international agencies.
Functions of an Indian Diplomat:
The functions of Indian diplomats are as follows:
- Representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multilateral organisations such as UN,
- Protecting India’s national interests in the country of his/her posting,
- Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state as also its people, including NRI / PIOs,
- Reporting accurately on developments in the country of posting which are likely to influence the formulation of India’s policies,
- Negotiating agreements on various issues with the authorities of the receiving state, and
- Extending consular facilities to foreigners and Indian nationals abroad.
On average it takes 9 years of service to get to the rank of Deputy Secretary, 13 years of service to become a Director and 16 years of service to get to the rank of Joint Secretary. Promotions up to the Director rank are automatic and time bound while promotion to the next level i.e. Joint Secretary is based on the Confidential Annual Performance Appraisal Reports (CAPAR) of the last ten years. CAPARs are written by the reporting officer and reviewed by a higher ranking officer than the reporting officer.
Indian Foreign Service is an attractive career that provides high-ranking duties throughout the service and even thereafter.