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The Indian Foreign Service (IFS), as the name suggests, deals with the external affairs of the country, which includes diplomacy, trade and cultural relations.

education Updated: Jun 04, 2013, 17:15 IST
Hindustan Times

The lowdown

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

Average day of an undersecretary for country X, when parliament is not in session:
8am: Drive to work
9-9.30am: Reach office. Check mail and country X’s media. Go for a meeting with the joint secretary to discuss what happened over the weekend and what needs to be done
11.30am: Prepare response to correspondence from country X’s embassy. Do groundwork for the visit of a delegation from X
1pm: Lunch in the canteen
2pm: Summarise reports from the Indian embassy in X
4pm: Meeting with X embassy officials
5pm: Prepare for an Indian delegation’s visit to X
6-6.30pm: Push off for home

The payoff
For a junior time scale (under secretary), basic pay is Rs. 8000–Rs. 13,500; senior time scale (under secretary): Rs. 10,650– Rs. 15,850; junior administrative grade (deputy secretary): Rs. 12,750–Rs. 16,500; selection grade IV (counsellor director): Rs. 15,100–Rs. 18,300; senior administrative grade (joint secretary): Rs. 18,400–Rs. 22,400; ambassador/ high commissioner: Rs. 26,000. IFS officers are also entitled to dearness allowance, foreign allowance, free accommodation and personal security along with other perks and benefits

* Good communication and inter-personal skills
* Knowledge of world affairs and your country’s politics, culture and economy
* You should be a voracious reader with and a sound knowldege of world affairs
* You should have good decision-making abilities
* Leadership qualities
* Physical stamina and poise
* Ability to adapt to different environments (eg you might be posted to a mission in a country with limited healthcare facilities)
* Loads of patience

Getting 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 (objective type) and a main exam (subjective type), 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, New Delhi for specific training

Institutes and URLs
You need a bachelor’s degree from any recognised Indian university, or equivalent. More at

Pros and cons
* You get a chance to represent your country and work to achieve national objectives
* International travel and work
* Enjoy diplomatic immunity. The purpose is to give protection so that you can do the government’s bidding without fear
* If on a foreign posting, you may have to leave your family behind
* Insular service - there’s not much public dealing at the headquarters
* Being a part of the bureaucracy, you have to operate within boundaries, feel restricted
* You will have to deal and match wits with a wide range of people who too would be promoting their countrys’ interests. This can be a bit of a challenge

If you have a flair for international relations, a keen interest in other cultures and take pride in representing your country, then the foreign service is the perfect career option -- Vikas Swarup, ’86 batch IFS officer who is currently India’s consul-general in Osaka-Kobe, Japan

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