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Home » Civil Services » IFS

IFS (Indian Foreign Service)

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Indian Foreign Service
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Name of Civil Services : IFS (Indian Foreign Service)

Exam Date : Prelim in 1st week of May & Mains in 2nd week of Oct

Eligibility Criteria :

1.Age limit

21 years must be completed on 1st August of the year, which a candidate is appearing. Maximum 30 for general category, 33 for OBCs and 35 for SCs/STs . Ex-servicemen will get 5 more years exemption from the prescribed age limit The date of birth accepted by the Commission is that entered in the Matriculation or Secondary School Leaving Certificate or in a certificate recognized by an Indian University as equivalent to Matriculation or in an extract from a Register of Matriculates maintained by a University, which extract must be certified by the proper authority of the University or in the Higher Secondary or an equivalent examination certificate.

2.Number of Attempts

Four attempts for open, seven for OBCs and no limit for SCs/STs. If a person appears in the Preliminary Examination or even one paper is counted as an attempt.

3.Restrictions on applying for the examination:

A candidate who is appointed to the Indian Administrative Service or the Indian Foreign Service on the results of an earlier examination and continues to be a member of that service will not be eligible to compete at this examination.

Exam Pattern :

All India Combined Competitive Examination for the Civil Services conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) comprises of two successive stages:

  • Preliminary Examination: It is of objective type, which is a qualifying examination.
  • Main Examination: It consists of written examination and interview.

The Preliminary Examination is held in May/June and the Main Examination in October/November. One must begin preparations of the main exam along with preliminary exam. This is because there is little time for the Main exam if one waits for the results of the Preliminaries.

Description :

Overviewtext

In September 1946, on the eve of India’s independence, the Government of India decided to create a service called the Indian Foreign Service for India’s diplomatic, consular and commercial representation overseas.text

The precursor to Indian Foreign Service can be traced back to September 1783 when Foreign Department was established by the British Raj to conduct business with foreign European powers. In 1947, there was a near seamless transformation of the Foreign department of the British India government into what then became the new Ministry of External Affairs and in 1948 the first batch recruited under the combined Civil service examination system of the Union Public Service Commission joined the service. This system of entry has remained the staple mode of intake into the IFS to this day.text

Backgroundtext

The origin of the Indian Foreign Service can be traced back to the British rule when the Foreign Department was created to conduct business with the “Foreign European Powers”. In fact it was on September 13, 1783, when the Board of Directors of the East India Company passed a resolution at Fort William, Calcutta (now Kolkata), to create a department, which could help “relieve the pressure” on the Warren Hastings administration in conducting its “secret and political business”. Subsequently known as the “Indian Foreign Department”, it went ahead with the expansion of diplomatic representation, wherever necessary, to protect British interests.text

In 1843, Governor-General Ellenborough carried out administrative reforms under which the Secretariat of the Government was organized under four departments – Foreign, Home, Finance and Military. Each was headed by a Secretary level officer. The foreign department Secretary was entrusted with the “conduct of all correspondence belonging to the external and internal diplomatic relations of the government”.text

From the very beginning, a distinction was maintained between the “foreign” and “political” functions of the Foreign Department; relations with all “Asiatic powers” (including native princely states of India during the British Raj) were treated as “political” and with all European powers as “foreign”.text

Although the Government of India Act, 1935 sought to delineate more clearly functions of the “Foreign” and “Political” wings of the Foreign Department, it was soon realized that it was administratively imperative to completely bifurcate the Foreign department. Consequently, the External Affairs Department was set up separately under the direct charge of the Governor-General.text

The idea of establishing a separate diplomatic service to handle the external activities of the Government of India originated from a note dated September 30, 1944, recorded by Lt-Gen T. J. Hutton, Secretary, Planning and Development Department of the Government. When this note was referred to the Department of External Affairs for comments, Olaf Caroe, the Foreign Secretary, recorded his comments in an exhaustive note detailing the scope, composition and functions of the proposed service. Mr Caroe pointed out that as India emerged to a position of autonomy and national consciousness, it was imperative to build up a system of representation abroad that would be in complete harmony with the objectives of the future government.text

In September 1946, on the eve of India’s independence, the Government of India decided to create a service called the Indian Foreign Service for India’s diplomatic, consular and commercial representation overseas.text

In 1947, there was a near seamless transformation of the Foreign and Political department of the British India government into what then became the new Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations and in 1948 the first batch recruited under the combined Civil service examination system of the Union Public Service Commission joined the service. This system of entry has remained the staple mode of intake into the IFS to this day.text

Selectiontext

The officials of the IFS are selected by the Union Public Service Commission through a three-stage combined selection process called the Civil Services Examination, known for being extremely challenging, that recruits officers for 20 other Group A services and five Group B services. The first stage, the Civil Services Prelims is composed of two objective exams: one of General studies and one of a subject of one's choice amongst a given list of subjects. The candidates can choose to be examined in about forty fields, from Civil Engineering and Medicine to Chinese Literature and Accountancy. This is purely an eliminatory stage and plays no part in the final rankings. About 5000-6000 of the applicants are selected for the next stage called the Civil Services Mains. The second stage is more exhaustive. It has nine papers of which two are only qualifying in nature. One has to choose two optional subjects of one's choice as compared to one in the Preliminary stage. There are two papers of General Studies, Optional 1 and Optional 2 each of 300 marks and one Essay paper of 200 marks. The exam is for a total of 2000 marks. Around 1200-1400 aspirants clear Mains and sit for the third stage i.e the Civil Services Interview which is for 300 marks. Every candidate is asked to choose their preference of services before the interview. Most choose IAS as their first choice but a few opt for Indian Foreign Service. The entire selection process lasts fifteen to twenty months. Repeated attempts are allowed (maximum of 4 times). About 300-400 are finally selected each year out of the nearly 400,000 appearing. But only a rank in the top 50 guarantees an IAS or IFS selection. This translates into an acceptance rate of 0.01%. It is due to this reason that IAS / IFS officers are highly respected in Indian society.text

Trainingtext

On selection to the Indian Foreign Service through the combined Civil Services examination, the new entrants undergo a multi-faceted and comprehensive training programme intended to give them a thorough grounding in diplomatic knowledge, diplomatic qualities and diplomatic skills. 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 focused training in the various disciplines that a career diplomat needs to familiarise himself with. The Foreign Service Institute course involves lectures, attachments with various wings of the Government as well as familiarisation tours both within the country and abroad. The aim of this course is to inculcate in the diplomatic recruit a strong sense of history, knowledge of diplomacy and international relations and a grasp of general economic and political principles. The entire training programme is for a period of 36 monthstext

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.text

Careertext

A Foreign Service 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 where the hierarchy (going upwards) is Vice-Consul, Consul and Consul General.text

The hierarchy at the Ministry of External Affairs includes 6 stages: Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary.text

Functionstext

As a career diplomat, the Foreign Service Officer is required to project India’s interests, both at home and abroad on a wide variety of issues. These include bilateral political and economic cooperation, trade and investment promotion, cultural interaction, press and media liaison as well as a whole host of multilateral issues.text

The functions of an Indian diplomat may be summarized as:text

1. Representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multilateral organisations like UN;text

2. Protecting India’s national interests in the country of his/her posting;text

3. Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state as also its people, including NRI / PIOs;text

4. Reporting accurately on developments in the country of posting which are likely to influence the formulation of India’s policies;text

5.Negotiating agreements on various issues with the authorities of the receiving state; andtext

6.Extending consular facilities to foreigners and Indian nationals abroad.text

7.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. Strengthtext

Strengthtext

In recent years, the intake into the Indian Foreign Service has averaged between 8-15 persons annually. The present cadre strength of the service stands at approximately 600 officers manning around 162 Indian missions and posts abroad and the various posts in the Ministry at hometext




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