The Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (SSIFS) was established in 1986 by the government of India primarily to cater to the professional training needs of the Indian Foreign Service and the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. SSIFS has diversified its activities to include courses for foreign diplomats in its efforts at building bridges of friendship and cooperation with countries around the world and courses of interest to staff and officers at all levels of the ministry of external affairs as well as other civil Services. In 2007, SSIFS is moved to its present location at Baba Gangnath Marg, Old JNU Campus, New Delhi.
Administrative Block of Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service
Though Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service started functioning in 1986, the beginnings of training of Indian Foreign Service officers go back to the October 1946 Cabinet decision which stated that “The special knowledge and the professional skill required of a diplomat can only be acquired through careful training.”
Initially, the training of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers consisted of a three month preliminary course of lectures in Delhi followed by 18 months in foreign universities as students under the general supervision of the Indian representative in the country concerned, which was followed by training for about a year at headquarters in India. A lot of thinking went into assessing the effectiveness of the training curriculum and subsequently, on March 21, 1950 the Foreign Service Board (FSB) of the MEA adopted a new programme of training. It aimed at increasing the knowledge base of probationers in fields such as History, Geography, Economics, Indian Culture, Indian domestic and foreign policy, modern history and politics, and diplomatic practice and procedure; developing their capacity to express clearly and concisely in speech and writing and improving their inter-personal skills.
It was decided by the FSB that to put the newly-designed curriculum into effect, the probationers would spend the first six months in India, where they would be attached to the Administrative Training School and thereafter undergo a condensed course designed by the Professors of Delhi University. After completion of this training at headquarters, the probationer would be sent to a foreign residential university in the UK or USA for one academic year. The chief objective of the year in the university would be to widen his/her social and mental horizons and not merely the acquisition of academic distinction. During this period the probationer would also pursue his/her study of the foreign language selected. The probationer would then go, for six months, to a country in which the language selected was the common medium of instruction. The probationer would also be attached to the Indian Mission in the country and it would be the duty of such missions to train the probationer in diplomatic practice and procedure so far as was practicable.
The probationer would after this period, come back home and would be attached to the foreign office and be given training in diplomatic practices and procedure and inf office routine under the overall supervision of a joint secretary. At the end of six to nine months of this training, an examination would be held to test the knowledge of the probationer and see whether he/she was fit for retention. During the course of implementation of the scheme of training approved by FSB, the subjected on which the knowledge of the probationers was tested were Territorial Work, Protocol, Establishment and Accounts, Passport and Visas and Hindi.
In a note recorded on November 5, 1953, the Prime Minister raised the question of the need for IFS probationers being trained in district work. He held that Foreign Service Officers could not function adequately without some intimate knowledge of the Indian scene as well as the background of Indian history and culture. Shri S. Dutt, India's Ambassador to West Germany in a letter dated November, 17, 1953 to Shri N R Pillai, Secretary General also noted ignorance shown by some young foreign service officers as regards Indian history, geography and conditions of the common man in an Indian village. With reference to the noting of the PM on district training of IFS probationers, Shri M J Desai, Commonwealth Secretary examined the question of the recruitment and training of IFS probationers, In view of the PM's observation, he wanted the Administration branch to carry out a review other entire training system, in light of the last five years experience.
Further, the then Foreign Secretary Shri R K Nehru's note on changes required in IFS probationers training was put before the Prime Minister on March 19, 1954, which pointed out that the present method was based on the principle that specialized training aboard was more important and should have a higher priority than general training in India. The PM agreed that the present system did not appear to be wholly satisfactory and it should certainly be reviewed.
In the meantime, MEA took steps to obtain the Cabinet's approval for the proposal for the district training of the 1951 batch of the IFS probationers and arrangements were made to send the probationers to the states after consulting the state governments. The Ministry of External Affairs further decided that the probationers of the 1952 and 1953 batches would undergo district training after completion of all other training. But, for the 1954 batch, the Ministry held that with effect from that batch, the district training in India would come before any other training.
Finally, in 1956, a revised programme for the training of IFS probationers was carved out. It included six months of training at the IAS training school on subjects such as Constitution of India., public administration, political theory, Indian history, economic theory with special reference to planning in India, Hindi, riding and motor driving. The revised programme further included four months of district training in which the probationer would be expected to gain some experience of the administrative machinery and a firsthand knowledge of the people in the villages. The district training would be followed by Secretariat training in the Ministry of External Affairs for around five and a half months which would include training in accounts; audit and treasury; administration (establishment and personnel); territorial, passport and visa regulations; study of compulsory foreign language and Hindi. This secretariat training was to be followed by training in a residential university abroad for nine months where the academic course would comprise a term in the subject of Diplomatic History and World History; another term in International Law and a third in Economics, following which the probationers would be sent for Departmental Training in External Relations and, Commerce and Trade in an Indian Mission. The last course in probation would be a British Foreign Service Course for Foreign Service Officers of the Commonwealth countries for one and a half months.
In 1959, the attachment to the universities abroad was given up and a new programme for the training of IFS probationers was charted out. The new programme included a course at the IAS training school for six to eight months; district training for three for two or three months; a reorientation course for 2 weeks at Delhi during which the probationers were sent to the School of International Studies which was to be the substitute for the university course abroad. This was followed by postings abroad as third secretaries which were also considered as part training.
The question of training was again under examination in 1961. The modified training schedule included six months at the National Academy of Administration, followed by 15 days of Bharat Darshan. After this the probationers were sent for District Training for three months followed by an attachment with the Ministry for three months. This was followed by a three month attachment with the School of International Studies after which the probationers were sent for their language postings abroad. This programme was followed for all batches till 1964.
The Pillai Committee Report (1966) on the Indian Foreign Service devoted a whole chapter in its report on training. Most of the recommendations of the Pillai Committee were accepted following which the training programme for the 1965 batch was modified. The new programme included four months at the National academy of Administration for the Foundation Course; a four month attachment with the School of International Studies; district attachment for six months; six months at the Ministry followed by Army Attachment and Bharat Darshan. Post that, the IFS probationers were sent for language postings abroad. The current programme was revised with minor changes based on feedback for IFS probationers in 1968. Subsequently, the probationers were also attached to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Supply and the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade for practical training.
In the 1970s the attachment to the Ministry of Foreign Trade was increased from one week to six weeks. Together with six weeks' training at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, the training in the commercial field was increased to a total period of three months. The probationers were also sent to Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) for a period of six days, to get acquainted with the work relating to cultural affairs. In 1977, the District attachment of the IFS probationers was subjected to scrutiny, and detailed guidelines were formulated which induced 18 weeks for training in the district and two weeks in the state capital.
The 1980s started with a renewed focus on the training of Foreign Service Probationers. In 1980, the training programme was again reviewed and the period of training in India was reduced drastically from about 2 years to less than one and a half years. The new training scheme was first implemented with the 1981 batch whose training programme in India was for 14 months only. The newly recruited batch of the IFS officers attended a brief three day orientation in the Ministry before attending the Foundation Course at the national Academy of Administration at Mussoorie. They were put through short but intensive courses at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (six weeks), Indian Institute of Mass Communication (two weeks), School of International Studies, JNU Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training (one week), in addition to undergoing attachment with the functional divisions within the Ministry of External Affairs (Administration, Accounts, Protocol, Passport and Visa etc.) and Territorial divisions for a period of 10 weeks. The institutionalized training was further supplemented with talks by senior officers of the Ministry on subjects covering the entire gamut of India's Foreign Policy and related aspects. The training also included Bharat Darshan and an attachment with ICCR. In 1982 the revised training schedule was further shortened to 11 months.
By now the need for an institute like the Foreign Service Training Institute had become imperative and it was felt that there was an urgent requirement from establishing a training institute to make the training of the probationers more structured to meet the requirement s and challenges thrown up by the then emerging international scenario. On August 30, 1983, Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi directed the then Foreign Secretary, Shri M. Rasgotra to take steps to establish a profession Foreign Service Training Institute. In pursuance of this directive a comprehensive proposal was submitted for the approval of the Cabinet on December 08, 1983.
The cabinet note stated, “The responsibilities of the Indian Foreign Service have growing scope and diversity and it is now indispensable to organize our own facilities for comprehensive functional training of entrants into the Indian Foreign Service, We have to provide for mid-career training also. The need for a Foreign Service Training Institute (FSTI) to equip officials of the Ministry of External Affairs at all levels with the knowledge and skills necessary to discharge these responsibilities had become compelling and urgent”.
At the same time, it was felt that only the initial training during probation could not meet the job requirements throughout the career as diplomacy found itself involved in areas that were new and unknown to traditional international diplomacy. Hence the FSTI was also given the task of mid-career training of the officers in the MEA.
The note also stated that “Because of the close interaction between the FSTI and other established institutions and organizations, more particularly the Ministry of External Affairs, it would also facilitate the organization of appropriate lectures and seminars involving the participation of public personalities, senior day basis'. The note stated that a separate proposal for the construction of a building in the compound of the MEA hostel on Kasturba Gandhi Marg to house the FSTI was under consideration and would be submitted to the Cabinet shortly. In the meantime, it was proposed to house this institute on premises to be provided on rent by the Ministry of Works and Housing. The proposal to establish the Foreign Service Training Institute was approved by the Cabinet on December 20, 1983.
As soon as the approval of the Cabinet regarding the establishment of FSTI was obtained, the work to put the Institute into operation by February 01, 1984 was started. The first and foremost challenge was to choose a location for housing the Institute. It was mentioned in the Cabinet note that the Institute would be located in Delhi and that the Ministry of Works and Housing would be requested to provide a building on rent, till a separate building for housing the Foreign Service Training Institute was constructed. The question regarding the location of the Institute, however, was not settled immediately and a suggestion was mooted by the Ministry that FSTI should be located in Mumbai. In January 1984, after discussions with the Prime Minister, the then Foreign Secretary Shri Rasgotra asked Joint Secretary (Establishment) to examine in detail the proposal of locating the FSTI in Mumbai and to carefully calculate the accommodation requirements for the institute. It was suggested that a note may be sent to the Cabinet asking for a modification of the earlier decision to site the Institute in New Delhi.
The proposal to locate FSTI in Mumbai, however, was very quickly dropped after calculating the cost of construction activity involved. In the note recorded by Shri Lalit Mansingh, the then JS (Establishment) on February 16, 1984 it was opined that FSTI should be located in Delhi provided that suitable accommodation was made available immediately from the Central Government Pool. Accordingly the Foreign Secretary requested DG (Works), CPWD, to ascertain the availability of such an accommodation and report the position within a week.
The DG (Works), CPWD, located a few buildings opposite Janpath Hotel, at Windsor Place, near the Safdarjung Hospital and near Lodi Estate for consideration of the Ministry of External Affairs. Though a proposal was made to acquire a few buildings among the ones located by DG (Works), CPWD, eventually none of the options worked out.
While the attempts to find a suitable place for FSTI were ongoing, Shri J C Ajmani was designated as Secretary (FST) in October, 1984. He was replaced by Shri N P Jain, Secretary (ER) who looked after matters relating the FSTI from July 1985 to October 1986. Shri N P Jain was re-designated as Secretary (NAM-FST), while he held the additional charge of the Foreign Service Training Institute.
In July, 1985, Shri N P Jain, Secretary (NAM-FST), wrote to Shri Ramesh Chandra, Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, requessting him to look into the matter of providing a temporary building having a usable area of around 1500 sq. mts, to meet the immediate needs of the Institute. The Ministry of Works and Housing cited the acute shortage of land in Delhi and proposed that the Ministry of External Affairs might consider the possibility of locating the Institute in Ghaziabad where the Ministry of Works and Housing had enough land at its disposal. He also mentioned that a couple of Training/ Research Centers of Posts and Telegraph Department have also been set up in Ghaziabad. The Ministry of External Afffairs did not find Ghaziabad as a suitable location and instead requested the Ministry of Works and Housing in December, 1985, to provide MEA with two or three alternatives to choose from. The MEA also requested the Ministry fo Works and Housing to consider the possiblity of locating the Institute near the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, in south Delhi.
As the question of FSTI’s location was showing no sign of an early resolution and nearly two years and passed after the Cabinet approval it was decided to start the functioning of FSTI from Akbar Bhavan, a building which was already with MEA. The FSTI, therefore, formally started functioning in January 1986 and was located at Akbar Bhavan. Satya Marg, new Delhi. A lecture hall and a few office rooms were allotted to FSTI to start its training schedule and the 1985 batch of the Indian Foreign Service became the first batch to be trained in FSTI.
Meanwhile, the hunt for the new campus for FSTI continued as FSTI's functioning from Akbar Bhavan was supposed to be a temporary arrangement till the time the institute got its own campus built. In July 1986 the Ministry of Urban Development (earlier the Ministry of Works and Housing), had written to Joint Secretary (FSTI) stating that they did not have any land in the Institutional Area near the Qutub in South Delhi and that the Ministry of External Affairs should get in touch with Delhi Development Authority that had developed a large institutional area near Indian Institute of Technology / Jawaharlal Nehru University. By then another proposal to locate FSTI near Dhaula Kuan had come up and accordingly in August, 1986 MEA wrote to Ministry of Urabn Development that it had been decided that FSTI will construct its building along with the institute of Defence Studies and Analyses on a seven acre plot of land near Dhaula Kuan, which was being released by the army authorities for that purpose. The Ministry of Urban Development was further requested to cancel the earlier request by MEA fro allotment of land for housing the Foreign Service Training Institute. Eventually the Dhaula kuan option also did not work out and by 1989, a 6-acre plot of land in the Old JNU Campus was offered by the Ministry of Urban Development.
To oversee the functioning of the FSTI an Advisory Committee at the Ministerial level had been set up in February 1988. The issue of the location of the FSTI Campus was finally resolved in meeting of the second Advisory Committee which took place on 17th April, 1990 under the Chairmanship of External Affairs Minister, Shri I K Gujral. The composition of the Second Advisory Committree was Shri I K Gural, External Affairs Minister as Chairman, with Foreign Secretary, Dean of FSTI, Additional Secretary (Administration) and Additional Secretary (Finacial Advisor), Ambassador Shri C S Jha and Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia Shri S Z Qasim as members and Joint Secretary (Administration) as Member-Secretary. The Committee among other things, recommended the purchase of a plot of land offered by the Ministry of Urban Development.
In pursuance of the recommendations of the Second advisory Committee, in September 1990, a 6-acre plot of the land was purchased by MEA in the Old JNU Campus through the Land and development Officer in the Ministry of Urban Development. The MEA approved the proposal for the FSTI building in 1995 and subsequently a signed drawing letter was sent to the DDA for building sanction. The Central Public Works Department was made in-charge of the construction in the FSTI campus and Virende Khanna and Associates Private Limited were selected as the architects and advisor for the construction of the FSTI building.
Meanwhile, in 1993 the Foreign Service Training Institute (FSTI) was renamed as Foreign Service Institute (FSI). The 6-acre plot allotted for FSI campus had a road going through it, dividing the plot into two parts and therefore, the area covered by the road measuring 1095 sqm was also purchased from Ministry of Urban Development in 2003. The new building of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) was formally inaugurated on 14th November 2007 by the Minister of External Affairs, Shri Pranab Mukherjee. On this occasion, the Minister also unveiled a bust of Jawaharlal Nehru at the Foreign Service Institute. On14 February 2020, the FSI was renamed as Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service.
Thus, it took 21 years of journey for Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service to have its own campus. The 2006 batch of the Indian Foreign Service became the first batch to shift to this new campus. At present, SSIFS is headed by the Dean, a senior Foreign Service officer of the rank of Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. It also has two Joint Secretary level officers. The SSIFS has an extensive guest faculty drawn from experts in the field of academics and research, the media, public life, industry and trade, senior serving and retired diplomats and other Government officials.