The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is the foreign service of India. It is the body of career diplomats of India.
The Indian Foreign Service is part of the Central Services of the Government of India. The Foreign Secretary, of India, is the administrative head of the Indian Foreign Service. In 1948 the first group of Indian Foreign Service officers recruited under the combined Civil Services Examination administered by the Union Public Service Commission joined the service. This exam is still used to select new IFS officers.
The Civil Services Examination is used for recruitment for many Indian administrative bodies. It has three stages - a preliminary exam, a main exam, and an interview - and is known for being extremely challenging.
The entire selection process lasts for about 12 months. About 800 to 900 candidates are finally selected each year out of the nearly 400,000, but only a rank among the top guarantees an IFS selection— an acceptance rate of 0.01 percent.
In recent years, the intake into the Indian Foreign Service has averaged around 20 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 of External Affairs at home. The Times of India reported a shortage of Indian diplomats. On acceptance to the Foreign Service, new entrants undergo significant training. The entrants undergo a probationary period (and are referred to as probationers). Training begins at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussourie, where members of many elite Indian civil service organizations are trained.
After completing the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, the probationers join the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi for more training as well as attachments with different government bodies and tours both in India and abroad. The entire training programme is for a period of 36 months.
At the conclusion of the training programme the officer is assigned a compulsory foreign language (CFL). After a brief period of desk attachment in the Ministry of External Affairs, the officer is posted to an Indian diplomatic mission abroad where the CFL is the native language. There the officer undergoes language training and is expected to develop proficiency in his CFL and pass an examination before being allowed to continue in the service.