The Indian Foreign Service is the administrative diplomatic civil service under Group A and Group B. It is one of the Central Civil Services of the executive branch of the Government of India. The members of the IFS represent the country in the international territory.
The IFS is unlike other civil services as it deals with the country’s external affairs like diplomacy, trade, and cultural relations.
How To become an Ambassador (IFS) of India:
IAS officers are selected through a national-level competitive exam called Civil Services Exam conducted every year by Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) which is a constitutional body. The Exam involves various stages and each stage will be to filter out candidates for the successive stage.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts Civil Services Exam in accordance with the Rules published by the Department of Personnel & Training.
UPSC Exam pattern:
The Commission conducts the CSE exam in two different stages:
Stage I: Preliminary Examination:
- It is of objective type for the selection of candidates for the Main examination. It is a screening exam only and the marks obtained in this shall not be counted to determine a candidate’s final order of merit.
- Preliminary Examination consists of two papers, GS Paper I and GS paper II popularly known as CSAT. Each paper is for 200 marks. Paper-II is a qualifying paper and if a candidate secures a minimum of 67 marks, he/she can be assured that they cleared paper II.
- Thus the cut-off marks released by UPSC are only for Paper I. Also, there will be negative marking for every incorrect answer given by the candidate. For each question for which a wrong answer is marked, one-third(0.33) of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as a penalty.
Stage II: the Main Examination:
- Qualifying Papers: It is a written examination and consists of 9 papers of conventional essay type out of which two papers i.e., Paper A and Paper B will be of qualifying in nature. Paper A and Paper B are papers on Indian languages and English and will be of Matriculation level. Each paper is for 300 marks and a candidate needs to effectively score 25-30% to qualify it and the marks obtained in it shall not be counted to determine the Final Rank.
- Papers to be counted for Merit: There are 7 papers in total each carrying 250 marks. It consists of an Essay paper, four papers on General Studies, and two papers on Optional Subjects. Thus it is for a total of 1750 marks.
- The personality test is conducted for 275 marks. The candidate will be interviewed by the Board to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service.
Visit the below link for UPSC syllabus for prelims and mains examination:
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How to apply for the Exam?
The Commission releases official Notification for the exam usually in February on its official website: http://www.upsc.gov.in/ and are required to apply online using the website http://www.upsconline.nic.in/.
Eligibility: The eligibility criteria for the IFS exam are the same as for other civil services. The candidate must possess a degree from an Indian University or an equivalent qualification. Those in the final year of a degree course can also appear in the Preliminary Examination taken every year by UPSC. A candidate must be either:
- a citizen of India, or
- a subject of Nepal, or
- a subject of Bhutan, or
- a Tibetan refugee who came over to India before January 1, 1962, with the intention of permanently settling in India, or
- a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia, and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.
Qualification: Candidate should hold a degree from any of the recognized universities or must have an equivalent qualification Skills Required Decision-making ability Good communication skills Excellent knowledge about foreign nations and current affairs Leadership ability Good analytical ability.
Age Limit: Minimum age 21 years Maximum age 30 years as of 1st of August in the year of examination. Up to a maximum of 3 years for OBC candidates, up to a maximum of 5 years for a candidate from the State of Jammu & Kashmir, and up to a maximum of 5 years for SC/ST candidates.
Number of Attempts: Every eligible candidate appearing for the examination will have 6 attempts. This number varies according to the reservation applicable to such candidates.
- On selection of candidates for Indian Foreign Service through UPSC Civil Services Exam, the new entrants undergo an all-round training at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussourie.
- They are trained along with the members of many elite Indian civil services. After completing a 15-week training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, the probationers join the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi for more intensive training.
Training at Foreign Service Institute:
- On completion of training in LBSNAA, IFS probationers join the Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute, India in New Delhi. The duration of training here is for 5 to 6 months and usually starts in the month of December and goes on till June. The training here is an amalgamation of both practical and theoretical knowledge.
- They are trained on a host of subjects important to diplomacy, including international relations theory, military diplomacy, trade, India’s Foreign Policy, History, International Law, diplomatic practice, hospitality, protocol, and administration.
There are three types of attachment in this phase of training namely-
- Mission attachment: Probationers are divided into various groups and sent to different countries batch-wise. Each batch visits one country. It facilitates understanding the functioning of Indian embassies in those countries and understanding different wings namely political, administrative, and security wings. The duration of this attachment is for one week and happens usually in the month of February.
- State attachment: It ensures the cadet plays a role in the upliftment of a state one comes from. They act as a link between the state and the country they are posted. They also get a glimpse of district administration.
- Army, Navy, and Air Force Attachment: Officer Trainees are sent for an army attachment where they experience the ground realities in which the Indian army operates. As part of their Naval Attachment OTs understand how the Navy protects India’s coastlines, its Island possessions, Exclusive Economic Zone, and important sea lanes of communications. They are sent for Air force attachment to create awareness about the capabilities of this mighty wing.
These attachments are an integral part of their training in the Foreign Service Institute. They also go on attachments with different government bodies and establishments and undertake tours both in India(Bharat Darshan) and abroad.
Upon the completion of the training program at the Institute, the officer is assigned a compulsory foreign language (CFL).
Three language preferences need to be given by an Officer Trainer. Based on the merit, the preferences are given and the number of vacancies available in the Foreign Service Institute, a cadet is allocated a language.
After a brief period of desk attachment in the Ministry of External Affairs, at the rank of Assistant Secretary, the officer is posted to an Indian diplomatic mission abroad where her/his CFL is the native language.
There the officer undergoes language training and is expected to develop proficiency in the CFL and pass an examination before being allowed to continue in the service.
During this training in the concerned country, they go by the designation of Third Secretaries. The training goes on for one to two and half years depending on the language chosen.
And clearing the language exam, the transition from Officer Trainee to “Diplomat” is completed with confirmation as the second secretary
The following table lists the hierarchy of Postings in the career of an IFS officer in ascending order of their rank.
|At an embassy||At a consulate||At the Ministry of External Affairs|
In recent years, the intake into the Indian Foreign Service has averaged between 30-35 persons annually. The competition can be stiff and one needs to really work hard to get into this.
The candidates need to gain the ability to correlate topics, interlink ideas, improve decision-making skills. Gain basic knowledge about every single topic in the syllabus, and conceptual clarity with a multi-dimensional approach.
As it is rightly said-“Consistency is the key to success”, this quality truly assures you success!