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, with its per capita income the highest among SAARC nations.
It is also a member of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non Aligned Movement.
The World Bank classifies the Maldives as having an upper middle income economy.
The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism, and the first Maldive writings and artistic achievements, in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture, are from that period.
Nearly all archaeological remains in the Maldives are from Buddhist stupas and monasteries, and all artifacts found to date display characteristic Buddhist iconography.
Their buildings were probably built of wood, palm fronds and other perishable materials, which would have quickly decayed in the salt and wind of the tropical climate.
Moreover, chiefs or headmen did not reside in elaborate stone palaces, nor did their religion require the construction of large temples or compounds.
first published in 1563 as follows: "I must tell you that I have heard it said that the natives do not call it Maldiva but Nalediva.The Maldivian language, the first Maldive scripts, the architecture, the ruling institutions, the customs and manners of the Maldivians originated at the time when the Maldives were a Buddhist kingdom.Buddhism probably spread to the Maldives in the 3rd century BC at the time of Emperor Ashoka's expansion, and became the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century AD.The importance of the Arabs as traders in the Indian Ocean by the 12th century may partly explain why the last Buddhist king of Maldives Dhovemi converted to Islam in the year 1153 (or 1193), adopting the Muslim title of Sultan Muhammad al Adil, and initiating a series of six Islamic dynasties that lasted until 1932 when the sultanate became elective.The formal title of the Sultan up to 1965 was, Sultan of Land and Sea, Lord of the twelve-thousand islands and Sultan of the Maldives which came with the style Highness.
Independence from the United Kingdom was achieved in 1965 and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People's Majlis.