The Maldives is a sovereign island country and archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It is located southwest of India and Sri Lanka in the Laccadive Sea. The chain of twenty six atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll to the Addu Atoll. The capital and largest city is Malé, traditionally called the "King's Island".
Historically linked with the Indian subcontinent, the Maldives is a Muslim-majority country. From the mid-sixteenth century, it was dominated by colonial powers: Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. The islands gained independence from the British Empire in 1965, becoming a republic in 1968 and is ruled by a president and authoritarian government. The Maldivian economy is dominated by tourism and fishing. The country is classified as an upper middle income economy.
Encompassing a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), the Maldives is one of the World's most geographically dispersed countries. It is the smallest Asian country in both land area and population. The archipelago is located atop the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean, which also forms a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep. With an average ground level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country. It is also the country with the lowest natural highest point in the world, at 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in). The government has pledged to make the Maldives a carbon-neutral country by 2019 amid concerns of rising sea levels.
The Maldives is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and it hosted the 17th SAARC summit in 2011. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement.