IFS officers are basically India’s diplomatic and commercial representation overseas. The officers with the service deal with a variety of issues like political and economic cooperation, trade and investment promotion and cultural interaction.
Who are the IFS Officers?
The selection of this service is the combined Civil Services Examination (CSE) conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). They project India’s interests at Embassies, Multinational Organisations and High Commissions and also at home.
The major powers of IFS are negotiations, observation and protection of Indian interest in the foreign state. IFS officers are the diplomatic agents of the first category. They are the representatives of the completely sovereign States and hence entitles to the title of Excellency.
An officer begins his career abroad as a Third Secretary and is promoted to Second Secretary as soon as he is confirmed in service. The next levels are First Secretary, Counsellor, Minister and Ambassador/ High Commissioner/ Permanent Representative.
If posted at Indian Consulates abroad, the hierarchy is Vice-Consul, Consul and Consul General. At Ministry of External Affairs, the hierarchy is Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary.
A unique set of features that differentiates an I.F.S (Indian Foreign Service) officer, is their Diplomatic immunity which is also embedded in their International Passport. Diplomatic immunity can be employed and virtually shared in ways which benefit individuals and groups pursuing democratic development reforms.
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity and a policy held between governments, which ensures that diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws.
Article 29 of the Vienna Convention of the Diplomatic provides that the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving state shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his freedom or dignity.
But in some exceptional cases, these provisions are violated. For example, in Devyani Khobragade case who was the Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of India in New York City was charged by U.S. authorities with committing visa fraud. Khobragade was arrested by U.S. federal law enforcement authorities subjected to a body-cavity search commonly called a "strip search", presented to a judge and released the same day. Her arrest and treatment received much media attention particularly in India and led to a major diplomatic standoff between India and the United States.
IFS officers cannot be prevented from leaving the country for not having paid their debts, nor can their passport be refused to them in this account. This exemption is confined to his functions as a diplomat and not for property or services outside his official duties.
The service is entrusted to conduct diplomacy and manage foreign relations with India. It is the body of career diplomats serving in more than 180 Indian Diplomatic Missions and International Organisations around the world. In addition, they serve at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi and the Prime Minister's Office.
They also head the Regional a Passport Offices throughout the country and hold positions in the President's Secretariat and several ministries on deputation. Foreign Secretary of India is the administrative head of the Indian Foreign Service.
Other special immunities:
•It is the duty of the receiving state to protect the residence of the diplomatic agent. Here it does not mean that the diplomatic agent can give shelter to a criminal and it must not be an asylum for fugitives.
•Diplomatic agent enjoys immunity from being presented as a witness in court. He cannot be compelled to appear as a witness in a civil, criminal or administrative court.
•Diplomats are immune from payment of taxes. No one can file a suit to recover that amount.
•They are immune from the police rules of the states. Police orders and regulations do not bind them.
•They can exercise control and jurisdiction over their offences and their families.
•They can travel freely in the territory of the receiving state but to place which are prohibited for security reasons they are not supposed to go.
•IFS officer has the freedom of communication for the discharge of his functions. The despatches are immune from local jurisdiction and censure.
•They are exempt from inspection of their personal baggage unless there contains some item which is not covered under the exemption.
IFS Officers are given the unique opportunity to represent the 1.34 billion Indians abroad. Whatever they say or do is not their individual opinion but the powerful voice of Indians who are slowly making a mark in the world. Ambassadors hold a very high position in the Order of Precedence and also the highest position compared to all other services in Indian Civil service. Indian diplomats form the fundamental base of Indian foreign policy and channelize the correlation between India and world.