The socio-political and economic relations between Hunza and China have a long history due to geographical proximity, and role of Hunza as a gateway to the Indian Ocean for the ancient Silk Road, Karakorum Highway (KKH) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Historically, the opening of the Silk Road across the region not only developed economic relations but also social and cultural affinities with China. Practicing of Bon religion in the late 7th century in Hunza and sacred rocks in the region testify deep historic socio-cultural relations with China. For centuries, the princely state of Hunza used to be an independent principality headed by a hereditary ruler (the Mir) who claimed legitimacy through a “heavenly mandate” (Ayasho lum ayasho in local Burushaski language). The doctrine of heavenly mandate and heavenly son of the “Celestial Empire” has been used since ancient times to justify the rule of the king or Emperor of China. History of Hunza before the 18th century is vague and not properly documented. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, large-scale centralised irrigation system and political centralisation under Mir (king) led to the formation of “Hunza State”. Geographically, the territory of Hunza is roughly 7,900 square kilometres, bordering and routes leading to the Pamir, Afghanistan, Russian Empire through Central Asia, and China. The mountainous region of Hunza passes through various vicissitudes and was instrumentalised by the British Empire in the late nineteen century due to its geopolitical sensitivity; through it the British tried to gain supremacy in Central Asia. Though the territory of Hunza is not geographicallywide, yet it remained a geopolitical pivot for many empires. Hence the region became the highest priority of the British and Russian Empire during the great game. As Zbigniew Brzezinski an American diplomat and political scientist indicates in his book The Grand Chessboard, “Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location and from the consequences of their potentially vulnerable condition for the behaviour of geostrategic players”. Archives on the history of Hunza indicate that the British and Russians keenly vied for political supremacy in Central Asia in the late 19th century, Hunza and the other adjoining tribal states invariably became a target that both titans strove to win During his visit to Hunza and adjoining areas in 1890 an English barrister, soldier, and journalist E.F. Knight felt the pivotal role of the region and wrote a book title, Where Three Empires Meet. Moreover, archives on the history of Hunza indicate that the British and Russians keenly vied for political supremacy in Central Asia in the late 19th century, Hunza and the other adjoining tribal states invariably became a target that both titans strove to win over. Hunza — China bilateral tributary system began on 1761 when Mir called Kisro Khan sent a mission to Kashgar and presented a gold dust to the Qing imperial agent as a tribute. In return, Hunzkuz received horses, rolls of silk and cotton cloth, bricks of black and green tea, and ceramic bowls, dishes, and teapots were sent from Yarkand to the “Khan of Kunjut (Hunza)”. According to a Chinese scholar Hsiao-Ting Lin, “As Qing authority was consolidated in the Altishahr region, tribal principalities in the Pamirs, including Hunza, were absorbed into the emergent tributary order. Situated in the valley between the Karakorum and the Hindu-Kush range, Hunza was noted for its geopolitical significance”. Throughout the history, relations between Hunza and China remained close and amicable. Disturbed by the increasingly close interaction between China and Hunza, the British Minister at Peking addressed the Qing court in the summer of 1888, warning that Hunza had long been a feudatory of Kashmir”, and it would be impossible for the British Government of India to allow this petty tribal state to become a tributary to the Qing Empire. Eventually, in 1891 British India invaded and captured the princely state of Hunza as part of an overall strategy to forestall a possible Russian onslaught on British India. At this point, Mir of Hunza Safdar Ali asked China and Russia for assistance yet before aid could arrive he fled into exile in Tashkurghan in the Qing-controlled southern Xinjiang along with a hundred retainers and died there in the 1920s. Later, British empowered his younger brother Nazim Khan as the king of Hunza — a person more amenable to Imperial interests. Moreover, the Great Game ended in1895 after the signing of the Pamir Boundary Commission protocols. A few years later on 1899 British asked China to relinquish its shadowy suzerainty over Hunza. The historic tragedy of the British invasion to Hunza is still being recalled by the local people of Hunza as, “Hunzao bilum gunz” means “the day we lost Hunza”. Invasion by the British empire not only forced the princely state of Hunza to stop tributary relations with China but also imprinted long-term irreparable damage to the history, politics, culture, and economy of the entire region. Moreover, the princely state of Hunza went under the suzerainty of Kashmir and lost its autarky. Historic archives show that time and again both sides tried to re-establish old relations, especially during the 1940s. Due to unstable domestic political conditions and rapidly change in the international political scenario, China couldn’t pay enough attention to its tributaries and its centuries-long relations with Hunza came to an end after the boundary agreement between China and Pakistan in 1963. The writer is a former Daily Times correspondent from Gilgit-Baltistan. He is currently pursuing his doctorate studies at Jilin University, in the northeast of China. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, July 27th 2018.