An IFS officer is supposed to project and protect national interests in a range of spheres, including bi-national economic and political cooperation, trade promotion, cultural links, media relations, as also multilateral issues, domestic as well as overseas. An officer begins his career abroad as a third secretary and is promoted to second secretary as soon as he is confirmed in service. Subsequent promotions are to the levels of first secretary, counsellor, minister and ambassador/high commissioner/permanent representative. Officers can also be posted to Indian consulates abroad.
What do they do?
The Indian Foreign Service (IFS), as the name suggests, deals with the external affairs of the country, which includes diplomacy, trade and cultural relations. IFS officers are responsible for framing and implementation of policies which govern India’s relations with other countries. An IFS officer’s main duties can be summarised as: representing India in its embassies, high commissions, consulates, and permanent missions to multilateral organisations like the United Nations; protecting India’s national interests in the country he/she is posted, promoting friendly relations with the receiving state and its people, including non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin; accurately reporting developments in that country 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 Indians abroad.
. Good communication and inter-personal skills
. Interest in international relations, expert in global affairs
. Knowledge of your country’s politics, culture and economy
. Analytical skills
. Diplomatic approach to issues
. Decision-making ability
. Leadership quality
. Physical stamina and poise
. Ability to adapt to different environments and cultures (e.g. you might be posted to a mission in a country with limited healthcare facilities)
. Loads of patience
. The polish and intelligence to be aware and respectful of the host country’s culture
How do I get there?
Entry to the IFS is through the Union Public Service Commission’s civil services examination, open to graduates in any discipline, though an international relations background would help.
The exam includes a written preliminary test and a main exam, followed by an interview. After a foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, entrants are sent to the Foreign Service Institute for specific training.
For more details, check upsc.gov.in
Typical day in the life of a IFS Officer
Pros & Cons about this career
. You represent your country and work to achieve national objectives . You have to travel the globe and rub shoulders with celebrities and big names in the course of your work and during leisure time . Enjoy diplomatic immunity
. Your foreign posting might at times not allow you to take your family along . Insular service – there’s not much public dealing at the HQ . Work can get terribly strenuous