Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island
country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent
in South Asia; known until 1972 as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India
to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest.
Sri Lanka has a documented history that spans over 3,000 years. Its geographic location
and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient
Silk Road through to World War II. Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many
religions, ethnicities and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan
Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda.
Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings, the
Pāli Canon, was committed to writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BCE.
The country's recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively
but controversially ended in a military victory in 2009.
Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The
capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the largest city, Colombo. An
important producer of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber, and the native cinnamon,
Sri Lanka is known as "the Pearl of the Indian Ocean" because of its natural beauty,
its shape and location, and "the nation of smiling people". The island contains
tropical forests and diverse landscapes with high biodiversity.
The country has had a long history of international engagement, being a founding
member of SAARC and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations,
the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement. It is also the only country in South Asia
that is currently rated 'high' on the Human Development Index.