All you Need to Know about the Indian Foreign Service (IFS)

UPSC Civil Services-All you need to know about the Indian Foreign Service (IFS)

“When a diplomat says yes he means perhaps; when he says perhaps he means no; when he says no he is no diplomat.”      – Unknown

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is part of the central services of the country. The IFS is a sought-after tag both for the monetary benefits and lifestyle a diplomat enjoys, and also for the unique challenges it poses. You can get into the IFS by clearing the UPSC civil services exam conducted every year, but you need a good rank to be eligible for it. There are also fewer vacancies for the IFS when compared to the IAS, IPS and other services.

The following table lists the last rank (minimum rank) which got awarded the IFS in the previous years.

YEAR

GEN

OBC

SC

ST

2014

114

567

756

926

2013

141

448

621

824

2012

134

328

659

2011

162

360

571

620

2010

140

283

514

676

2009

108

285

246

570

2008

103

257

417

586

 

As you can see, you need to get top ranks to be eligible for the foreign services. You don’t need to know a foreign language to be eligible for the IFS, although you will have to learn one during your training after you’ve been selected.

 

According to the MEA website, recent intake into the IFS has been 8-15 persons annually. Currently, there are approximately 600 officers manning around 162 Indian missions and posts abroad and in India.

 

Training

  • Once you are selected into the IFS, you are put on probation and given training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussourie along with your colleagues from the other civil services. You receive training on diplomatic knowledge, diplomatic qualities and diplomatic skills. This is for 3 – 4 months.
  • After this, you join the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi and undergo focused training in the various disciplines that a career diplomat needs to familiarise himself/herself with. The course here involves lectures, attachments with various wings of the Government as well as familiarisation tours both inside and outside the country. As a Foreign Service Probationer, your training here will be for one year where you are taught International Relations, Indian Foreign Service Pay, Leave and Compensatory Allowances (IFS-PLCA) Rules, Foreign Trade, functioning of Indian missions in neighbouring South Asian countries, attachments with the Army, Navy and the Air Force, attachment with the district and the state administration and attachment with the corporate sector.
  • After this training, you receive on-the-job training wherein you are attached to a Division of the Ministry of External Affairs for a period of six months. Post this, you are assigned a Compulsory Foreign Language (CFL) such as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish or others.
  • Then, you are posted as a Third Secretary (Language Trainee) in an Indian mission abroad. Here, you are supposed to learn your CFL. Only after clearing a proficiency test conducted by the School of Foreign Languages (SFL), Ministry of Defence, you are confirmed as an IFS officer. It takes a total of three years to make it this far from your Mussourie training days!

 

Posting

After confirmation, you will be posted as a Second Secretary in one of the wings (Political, Economic or Commerce, Consular, Administrative or Cultural) at an Indian Embassy or as Consul at an Indian Consulate for a period of 3 years. Here again, an officer is expected to learn about the political, economic, commercial and cultural nuances of his country of posting.

 

Functions*

  • Representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multilateral organisations like 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.
  • At home, Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for all aspects of external relations. Territorial divisions deal with bilateral political and economic work while functional divisions look after policy planning, multilateral organizations, regional groupings, legal matters, disarmament, protocol, consular, Indian Diaspora, press and publicity, administration and other aspects.

*Source: Ministry of External Affairs, official website

 

Promotion chain in the IFS

At an Indian mission abroad:

Third Secretary (Language Trainee); Second Secretary; First Secretary; Counsellor; Minister; Ambassador

At MEA headquarters, India:

Attaché; Under Secretary; Deputy Secretary; Director; Joint Secretary; Additional Secretary; Secretary

The highest post under the IFS is the Foreign Secretary, who serves from India.

Indian Foreign Service Salary

Salary & Perks

The salary and perks are quite attractive. Apart from the salary, you would be given a Special Foreign Allowance. This amount varies with the country you are posted in. For example, when a new officer is assigned to the Indian mission in the USA, he/she can get US $4000 per month. This allowance increases with the grade.

Post abroad

Post in India

Pay scale

Attache /third secretary

Under secretary

8000-275-13500

Second / first secretary

Under secretary

10650-325-15850

First secretary

Deputy secretary

12750-375-16500

Director

Counselor Director

15100-400-18300

Minister/DCM Ambassador

Joint secretary

18400-500-22400

Ambassador/high Commissioner

Additional secretary

22400-525-24500

Ambassador/High Commissioner

Secretary

26000 (fixed)

 

You also get good accommodation, household help, official vehicles, security guards, abroad study options and retirement benefits and pension.

 

Skills Needed for the IFS

  • Excellent communication and inter-personal skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Interest and knowledge in international relations
  • Diplomacy
  • Decision-making skills
  • Leadership
  • Ability to adapt to different environments and cultures
  • Sensitivity to other cultures 

 

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