Know Your Services | The Indian Foreign Service

This blog is a part of the series – Know Your Services @Intro to Civil Services


  • IFS is the administrative diplomatic civil service under Group A and Group B of the Central Civil Services
  • It is one of the two premier Civil Services (other being IAS) as appointment to IFS renders a person ineligible to reappear in Civil Services Examination
  • It is a Central Civil service as Foreign policy is the subject matter and prerogative of Union Government
  • The Indian Foreign Service holds the distinction of giving India its- President, Vice President, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Foreign Minister and many distinguished Statesmen in past and present <can you name them in the comments?>


  • On selection, the new entrants undergo a multi-faceted and comprehensive training programme
  • It gives 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

  • The 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
  • 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


  • 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, Ambassador/ High Commissioner/ Permanent Representative <can you tell the difference among the three in the cooments box>
  • Officers can also be posted to Indian Consulates abroad where the hierarchy (going upwards) is Vice-Consul, Consul and Consul General <can you tell the difference b/w consulate and embassy in the comments box>
  • The hierarchy at the Ministry of External Affairs includes 6 stages: Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary <where does foreign secretary figure in this heirarchy,!? Tell us in the comments below>


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.

The functions of an Indian diplomat may be summarized as:

  • Representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multilateral organisations like UN
  • Protecting India’s national interests in the country of his/her posting
  • Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state as also its people, including NRI / PIOs
  • Reporting accurately on developments in the country of posting which are likely to influence the formulation of India’s policies
  • Negotiating agreements on various issues with the authorities of the receiving state
  • Extending consular facilities to foreigners and Indian nationals abroad.

Published with inputs from Swapnil

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

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