Indian diplomats have been relentlessly working toward serving the nation and furthering India’s national interests globally. It was on this day in the year 1946, about a year before India got her independence from the British, that the Indian Foreign Service came into existence. Since 2011, October 9 is being celebrated as the Indian Foreign Services Day – a day dedicated to the service and the servicemen who have always stood up for our national interests in the international arena was established.

Indian Weekender interviewed Mr Muktesh K. Pardeshi, High Commissioner of India to New Zealand to know the significance of the day, his message to those who want to join the Indian Foreign Services, his journey in the Indian Foreign Services and more...

What is the significance of IFS day for you?

The IFS Day falling on 9 October is significant, as on this day we acknowledge the contributions made by Indian Foreign Service Officers in the promotion and protection of India's national interest abroad.  On this day, we also rededicate ourselves to serving the country and its people. This year, the IFS completes 75 years of its successful existence. The IFS was created on 9 October 1946 by the interim Cabinet led by Jawaharlal Nehru for India's diplomatic, consular and commercial representation overseas. 

Is anything special planned to commemorate the day?

We have nothing special planned for the day. A quieter celebration and exchanges of greetings amongst fellow colleagues who are posted all over the world would be an occasion to cherish. 

What was your motivation to join the IFS?

It is a matter of great coincidence that I have just completed 30 years in the IFS.  It has been a very fulfilling and rewarding period in my life. As a student, I always aspired to join the civil service. This opportunity came when I took the competitive examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in 1990, immediately after finishing my Masters from the Delhi  School of Economics. While studying at Delhi University, I developed an interest in world affairs which provided a strong motivation to join the Foreign Service. 

What will be your message to youngsters who want to join IFS?

I can assure them that IFS would provide them with an excellent career and life experience. India has produced excellent diplomats and some of them have occupied high positions in public life, including those of President, Vice-President, Speaker, Union Ministers and NSA. Dr S. Jaishankar, an IFS Officer of the 1977 batch, is a role model for all of us as he leads the Ministry of External Affairs as a Cabinet Minister, after serving in the IFS for forty long years.

How do you think the Indian Foreign Service has changed over the years especially during the current pandemic?

The IFS is a dynamic service and has adapted well in dealing with contemporary challenges such as security, public health, climate change and emerging technologies. People generally assume that IFS officers are not dealing with day-to-day national problems. This is far from true. The enormous and successful efforts made by Indian diplomats abroad during the last two years would testify how we have been at the forefront of the handling of the current Covid-19  crisis by way of the evacuation of millions of Indians, providing support to distressed Indians and securing health materials and equipment from countries abroad. 

We not only represent India and serve the diaspora abroad, we also contribute directly to national development through the execution of economic, investment and technological linkages and promotion of India's exports - both goods and services.  There is hardly any aspect of national life-be it national security, border management, disaster management, health response, water sharing, cultural promotion, educational linkages-with which an IFS officer is not dealing with in the contemporary context. We are also responsible for the delivery of large public services. For instance, I, as India's Chief Passport Officer during 2010-16,  successfully led the transformation of Passport services in India for which I received the prestigious National Award on e-Governance (Gold) 2014-15 and Web Ratna (Platinum) Award 2014. Today, passport service is rated amongst the most efficient citizen-centric services in India.