Maldives, officially the Republic of the Maldives and also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean consisting of a double chain of twenty-sixatolls, oriented north-south, that lie between Minicoy Island (the southernmost part of Lakshadweep, India) and the Chagos Archipelago. The chains stand in the Laccadive Sea, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka and 400 kilometres (250 mi) south-west of India.
For the majority of its history, the Maldives has been a free nation, despite three instances during which it was ruled by outside forces. In the mid-fifteenth century, for fifteen years, the Maldives was dominated by the Portuguese Empire. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Dutch Empire (Malabar) dominated Maldives for four months. Finally, in the late nineteenth century, on the brink of war, the Maldives became a British protectorate from 1887 until 1965. The Dutch referred to the islands as the "Maldivische Eilanden" (pronounced [mɑlˈdivisə ˈɛi̯lɑndə(n)]), while the British anglicised the local name for the islands first to the "Maldive Islands" and later to the "Maldives". The islands gained independence from the British in 1965 and became a republic in 1968 ruled by a president and an authoritarian government.