The preferred choice of service for most UPSC Civil Services candidates is the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), instead of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) even though both are of equal prestige. Even UPSC exam toppers generally do not choose to go for the Foreign Service. Is the life of a civil servant in India more appealing than that of a diplomat? This article tries to throw some light on this issue of why the IAS is generally more popular than the IFS. You will be able to find an answer to “Which is more powerful IAS or IFS?”, understand the pros and cons of each of the services and subsequently decide whether to choose IAS over IFS or vice versa.
IAS vs IFS: Comparison
It might seem that a diplomat leads a very colourful and luxurious life. They usually get grand houses with domestic staff to live in. They also get to host and attend parties. IFS officers also do not have to worry about meddling politicians like their IAS/IPS counterparts do. And, they have diplomatic immunity in most matters when posted abroad. The IFS officer salary structure is also higher than the IAS officer salary structure due to higher allowances.
IAS/IPS officers, in contrast, spend their early career in district headquarters and sub-divisional towns which may be in remote areas. An IAS officer also has to constantly travel within their district as a part of the job, which may involve going into undeveloped areas or areas affected by insurgencies etc. The social life of an IAS or IPS officer can become extremely limited during their early career. However, the Indian Administrative is an All India service while the Indian Foreign Service is a Central Service.
Life Of An IFS Officer
Behind the glitz and glamour, there is a lot of work going on. They have to constantly observe and record every detail that might affect India’s foreign policy interests. They also have to maintain the country’s standing abroad and be very vigilant in their personal and professional life. A diplomat is constantly under the scanner. Behaviour and words must be measured as the officer represents India to the world. One wrong move could tank an IFS officer’s diplomatic career. And, it is not just the official who is under constant scrutiny, their spouse and children are also expected to do their part.
Frequent movement from one country to another means that the IFS Officers’ spouse’s career may be compromised. Diplomats also deal with culture shock every few years when they move and adapt to a new country.
Another factor that deters a lot of candidates is the fact that their posting can be anywhere in the world where India has diplomatic missions.
Indian missions, embassies and consulates are located all over the world in countries ranging from developed countries to under-developed or war-torn countries. Even hostile countries have some diplomatic presence.
Many times, the life and well-being of an IFS officer could be under threat due to sudden changes in the local society such as revolutions or coups. In politically unstable countries, they have to be on guard at all times and sometimes the whole mission might have to be evacuated within a short time. Also, resources to deal with such situations are limited for an IFS officer due to the distances involved.
One of the duties an IFS officer often has to undertake is to coordinate intelligence gathering and lobbying activities in the territory they are posted in. This is highly risky for the officers and their staff even in friendly countries.
Who is senior, IAS or IFS?
At the end of the day, candidates choose their service according to their aspirations, aptitude and UPSC rank. If a candidate wishes to serve within India and have a direct positive impact on peoples’ lives speeding up the development of the country first hand, then IAS would be the ideal choice.
If a life of travel and adventure and meeting people from different cultures and places appeal to the candidate, then the foreign services might suit them.
Candidates must remember that there is no right answer to the question, “IAS or IFS which is better?”’.
Both the services help develop the country and protect the nation’s interests in their own way. Whether one chooses to opt for IAS over IFS depends solely on the individual’s aptitude and interests.
More IAS, IFS related queries
- Is IFS better than IAS?
- Ans. Though a majority of UPSC candidates choose IAS over IFS, the choices are partly due to the limited number of vacancies in the IFS. The service profile of IAS and IFS are different for the majority of their career and both are equally important for the functioning of the government.
- How is IFS different from IAS?
- Ans. IFS is the Indian Foreign Service. An IFS officer is a career diplomat who has to project and protect Indian interests abroad. IAS is the Indian Administrative Service, which takes care of day to day administration inside India. Though there can be overlap in their roles from time to time, for example, when an IAS officer is posted abroad as part of developmental or administrative assistance to friendly countries, the career path is entirely different.
- What rank is required for IFS?
- Ans. The Last General Category rank for IFS in 2017 was AIR 152. The last rank for the reserved categories was AIR 707 without disability and AIR 986 with disability.
- Can IFS become IAS?
- Ans. A candidate who has joined IAS/IFS is not allowed to sit for the Civil Services Examination again. Hence anyone who has joined IFS cannot become an IAS officer and vice versa. IAS officers and IFS officers may be sent on deputation to other departments depending on service requirements from time to time by the government.
- Is IFS and IAS exam same?
- Ans. IFS and IAS officers get selected through the same examination which is the Civil Services Examination. Services and cadres are allocated as per the Cadre Allocation Policy of the UPSC after the declaration of the UPSC merit list.
- Do IAS officers get diplomatic passports?
- Ans. IAS officers are normally not issued diplomatic passports unless they are visiting a foreign country on diplomatic work. The maroon coloured diplomatic passport is issued to IAS officers only in the event they are posted out of the country to a diplomatic mission. They are issued white official passports for all other official travel and have to use a blue ordinary passport for personal travel.
- Who got the highest marks in UPSC ever?
- Ans. The highest marks scorer in the UPSC exam is Anudeep Durishetty, the topper for UPSC 2017. He scored 1126 (55.60%) out of 2025 marks. He scored 950 out of 1750 marks in Mains and 176 out of 275 in the personality test (UPSC Interview)
- Do IFS officers get diplomatic passports?
- Ans. IFS officers get maroon coloured diplomatic passports when posted abroad. IFS officers typically spend two to three postings abroad and return to the Foreign Ministry for a posting before returning to foreign postings. Whenever an IFS officer travels abroad on personal business, they have to use a normal blue passport.
- What are the perks of being an IFS officer?
- Ans. An IFS officer normally gets perks depending on their country of posting. These are:
- Foreign Area Allowance
- Security Cover for self and family
- Government-sponsored housing in secure areas.
- A vehicle for commuting.
- Are IFS officers powerful?
- Ans. IFS officers are powerful in their own right, though they do not have the broad administrative powers that an IAS or IPS officer would have inside the country. Notwithstanding this, they shape India’s foreign policy and can wield a lot of influence on other departments related to their work.
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