The Maldives are a 1,200-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about 300 miles southwest of India's southern tip. Nearly 400,000 people live in the island nation, which achieved independence in 1965 after nearly a century as a British protectorate. The population is predominately Sunni Muslim.
The Maldives' primary industry is tourism. Resorts dot the islands to take advantage of the white sandy beaches and blue waters, which some 650,000 tourists visit each year.
The nation also has a growing ecotourism sector, no doubt in part because of the nation's concern about rising sea levels: Most of the Maldives' islands are within one meter (about 3 feet) of sea level. President Mohamed Nasheed has tried to increase international awareness about the threat it poses, going so far as to hold a cabinet meeting underwater to illustrate the point.