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Republic of the Maldives

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The Republic of the Maldives is a country in the north Indian Ocean, south of the Indian subcontinent. It is a scattered island chain consisting of clusters of small islands and atolls extending nearly 800km from north to south.

The Maldives are coral atolls, and as such are flat and low-lying, rarely rising more than a couple metres above sea level. Maldivians speak an indigenous language (Dhivehi) constitute a unique ethnic group from centuries of migration, including Tamils and Sinhala from India and Ceylon as well as from Arab countries and East Asia.

The Maldives are a multi-party socialist democracy, and the state religion is Islam. Major industries include textiles and crafts, but most exports are fishing and tropical agriculture. Next to seafood, tourism and the service industry are major drivers of economic growth, and the Maldives have signed trade agreements with China, Saudi Arabia and its regional island neighbours. It is also a recent member of the Community of Oceans. Relations with India remain tense over fishing rights.