Shillong, April 12 (PTI) Union Minister Sushma Swaraj has called for a meeting of all chief ministers of northeastern states on May 4 to discuss the provisions of the ‘Act East Policy’, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma told the Assembly today.

The Centre is keen on strengthening the policy for the benefit of the state and the region as a whole, he said.

“When I had met the external affairs minister recently, she mentioned about the May 4 meeting. We need to realise that great opportunities lies in trading with neighbouring nations,” Sangma said while participating in a discussion on work permits for Bangladesh nationals.

When people in the northeast traded with neighbouring countries, the region boasted of highest per-capita income in the country, the CM said.

Talking about the export potential of the northeast, Sangma said Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura have to go through Kolkata port to export rubber.

“To import or export products to countries like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, these states have to go through the chicken neck and all the way to Kolkata as the Chittagong port is inaccessible,” he said, adding that Guwahati or Shillong could be the trade hub for the region.

Sangma also said he had taken up the issue of illegal immigration with the external affairs minister during the recent meeting in Delhi.

Defending his proposition of issuing work permits to foreign nationals, the CM said, “Many nations have adopted this mechanism of sanctioning work permits to foreigners, knowing well that such people cannot vote.” The chief minister also invited suggestions from all members of the Assembly on the matter.

Earlier, Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma staged a walkout of the Assembly, criticising the chief minister’s decision to grant work permits to immigrants.

He called the chief minister “a pawn in some people’s hand”.

The CM, on his part, assured the House that there will be no compromise on the identity, and property of people while implementing the provisions of the Act East Policy.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.