An island country in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka, consisting of 19 atolls made up of more than 2,000 coral islands. Settled by various groups from southern Asia, the islands were converted to Islam in the 12th century. The Maldives became a self-governing British protectorate in 1887 and achieved independence as a sultanate (1965) and subsequently as a republic (1968). Male is the capital. Population: 369,000.
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