The ensuing decades have been characterised by political instability, efforts at democratic reform, and environmental challenges posed by climate change.
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Fishing has historically been the dominant economic activity, and remains the largest sector by far, followed by the rapidly growing tourism industry.
Along with Sri Lanka, it is one of only two South Asian countries rated "high" on the Human Development Index (HDI), The ancient Sri Lankan chronicle Mahawamsa refers to an island called Mahiladiva ("Island of Women", महिलादिभ) in Pali, which is probably a mistranslation of the same Sanskrit word meaning "garland".
Jan S Hogendorn, Grossman Professor of Economics, theorises that the name Maldives derives from the Sanskrit mālādvīpa ().
, Dhivehi Raa'jeyge Jumhooriyya), is a South Asian island country, located in the Indian Ocean. The chain of twenty six atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to the Addu Atoll in the south.
Comprising a territory spanning roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), the Maldives is one of the world's most geographically dispersed countries, as well as the smallest Asian country by both land area and population, with a little over over 393,500 inhabitants.
Malé is the capital and largest city, traditionally called the "King's Island" for its central location.
The Maldives 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.
The Maldives have been historically and culturally linked to the Indian subcontinent since the fourth century BCE.
The Maldivian archipelago was Islamised in the 12th century and consolidated as a sultanate, developing strong commercial and cultural ties with Asia and Africa.
From the mid 16th-century, the region came under the increasing influence of colonial powers, with the Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887.
Independence from the United Kingdom was achieved in 1965 and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People's Majlis.