The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday stated that India has sought parity with Canada in terms of the diplomatic staff posted in each other’s missions.

“Given the much higher diplomatic presence of Canadian diplomats or diplomatic presence here of Canada and their continuing interference in our internal affairs, we had and we have sought parity in our respective diplomatic presence,” said Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry.

Bagchi stated that discussions are ongoing on the modalities of achieving parity in diplomatic presence. In response to a question on the deadline for the repatriation of diplomats, he said that he could not go into details of diplomatic conversations.

Upon being asked about the effect that cutting down two-thirds of the Canadian mission’s diplomatic staff would have on the number of visas that are issued, particularly to students, Bagchi said that it was up to the Canadian side whom they choose to staff their High Commission with.

India raised the issue of parity in the numbers and ranks of diplomats posted in both countries last month too.

“Yes, we have informed the Canadian government that there should be parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence, in mutual diplomatic presence,” Bagchi said on September 21. “Numbers here are very much higher than ours in Canada.

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that India has told Canada to withdraw over 40 diplomatic staff from the country before October 10.

It said that the Indian government threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of the diplomats who remain in the country beyond the deadline. “Diplomatic immunity” refers to exemptions that diplomats enjoy from certain laws in the country they work in.

This comes amid escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Although relations between New Delhi and Ottawa had been growing increasingly strained in recent years, they were pushed to a new low after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged on September 18 that Indian agents were involved in Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination near Vancouver in June.

India quickly dismissed Ottawa’s claims as “motivated” and asked Canada to take legal action against “anti-Indian elements” operating from its soil instead.