India must end its persecution in Kashmir if it is ever to be genuinely regarded as one of the great democracies, or considered a candidate for the United Nations Security Council.

That was the message from Anthea McIntyre MEP in a speech to the European Parliament.

The Conservative MEP for the West Midlands said: "Forty-three days ago the Indian Government revoked Articles 370 and 35a of the Indian constitution and thus removed, at stroke, the guarantee of Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy.

"We have seen a huge surge in the number of troops deployed there, a total communications blackout, curfews, house arrests and the unlawful detention of local people."

Miss McIntyre, co-chairman of the European Parliament's Friends of Kashmir Group, cited violations of human rights, including the use of shotguns against peaceful protesters.

She said: "Just look at the case of Asrar Ahmad Khan. Despite the denials of the Indian Government, medical records and scans released by the hospital present irrefutable evidence that he died as the result of a shotgun pellet to the head.

"I visited Azad Kashmir last year and heard heartbreaking accounts of civilians, including infants, being fired at with shotguns.

 "Whatever justification may be claimed - and in these cases there really is none - there can never be any excuse for killing and maiming and blinding small children.

 "I really cannot understand why a great nation like India, which prides itself on the strength of its democracy, behaves in this way.

"India aspires to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Events of the past month are not the actions of a credible candidate."