Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is a small archipelagic state in South Asia situated in the Indian Ocean. Comprising a territory spanning roughly 298 square kilometres (115 sq mi), Maldives is one of the world's most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and, with around 557,426 inhabitants, the 2nd least populous country in Asia.
According to the book "Kitāb fi āthār Mīdhu al-qādimah ("On the Ancient Ruins of Meedhoo")" written in the 17th century in Arabic, the first settlers of the Maldives were people known as Dheyvis. They came from the Kalibanga in India. The time of their arrival is unknown but it was before Emperor Asoka's kingdom in 269-232 BC. Shihabuddine's story tallies remarkably well with the recorded history of South Asia and that of copperplate document of Maldives known as Loamaafaanu.
The Maldivian Archipelago is located on the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean; this also forms a terrestrial ecoregion, together with the Chagos Archipelago and Lakshadweep. With an average ground-level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, and a highest natural point of only 5.1 metres (17 ft), it is the world's lowest-lying country.
Maldives was a member of the Commonwealth from July 1982 until withdrawing from the organisation in October 2016 in protest at allegations by the other nations of its human rights abuses and failing democracy. The Maldives rejoined the Commonwealth on 1 February 2020 after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support.