The Maldives is an island nation consisting of a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is located south of India's Lakshadweep islands, and about seven hundred kilometers (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka. The Maldives' twenty-six atolls encompass a territory featuring 1,192 islets, roughly two hundred of which are inhabited by local communities.
Originally the inhabitants were Buddhist, but Islam was introduced in 1153. It later became a Portuguese (1558), Dutch (1654), and British (1887) colonial possession. In 1965, the Maldives obtained independence from Britain (originally under the name "Maldive Islands"), and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic. However, in thirty-eight years, the Maldives have seen only two Presidents, though political restrictions have loosened somewhat recently. The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of population. It is also the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world.