BEWARE OF FAKE INSTITUTES WITH SIMILAR NAMES. blank    blank

Why there is a need to revamp the Indian Foreign Service? What can be ...

  Jul 14, 2017

Why there is a need to revamp the Indian Foreign Service? What can be done to revive the lost prestige of IFS?

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is one of the most prestigious services in the country and only a few people get a chance to enter it. Those who desire to be a part of this service and become a career diplomat needs to clear the Civil Services Examination (CSE) first.

Why?
After selection, candidates go through a gruelling training period during which they are taught various aspects of diplomacy. This process has been going on for decades, but it needs to change now. The reason being that diplomacy is not the job of a ‘generalist’, which anyone can try their hands at. It needs specialisation. A diplomat is a representative of his country and a foot soldier of its foreign policy. Good armies fight wars and win. Good diplomats deter wars and win.

Specialised job
Being a specialised job, diplomacy needs people who have prior theoretical and historical knowledge of the subject before being trained in its practical aspects. Diplomacy involves the conscious pursuit of the national interest through well-designed policies and initiatives. That requires an understanding of international relations including the nature of the state, political systems, international order, among others. In other words, the job of diplomacy demands that its practitioners be first well equipped with the basic knowledge of the subject of international relations.
Committee findings
  1. That there are quality issues with recent recruits to the IFS was highlighted by a parliamentary committee last year. Pointing to the ‘deterioration’ in the quality of recruits to the IFS, the committee noted that, unlike in the past, when only those with the highest ranks in the CSE were taken into the service, it was surprised to find that even low-ranked candidates are now able to enter the service. ‘This development is both a symptom and a reason for the erosion of prestige in the IFS’, noted the Committee.
  2. The second concern that the committee highlighted was the low strength of the IFS. It is well known that when compared to India’s global profile and its image as an emerging power in the international system, it needs many more officers in the field with a deeper knowledge and understanding of the areas they are about to serve in.
Way Forward
Among the many ideas that have been floated to address such problems include ‘lateral entry’ and ‘revolving door’.
Entry rules
Another critical area of revamp pertains to the IFS entry rules, which need to be made more specialised. Only those candidates who have an academic background in the subjects of international relations, strategic studies, security studies or foreign policy studies should be allowed to appear for the examination, which could either be conducted by a separate body or be a separate exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) itself.

Advantages
Area of concern
One problem though is that very few educational institutions offer courses in International relations and even fewer provide quality education in the field, with the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University being notable exceptions.

The government needs to build institutions focused on international relations, defence, security and diplomatic studies in order to get the best skilled talent in the field. This is being practiced by many countries such as Russia and France, among others, where they groom students from these fields to become career diplomats. With changing times and the growing profile of India in the international system, there is a need for a change in the structure and process of recruitment into this very important service.