Sri Lanka (i/ʃriː ˈlɑːŋkə/, /sriːˈlɑːŋkə/, or /sriːˈlæŋkə/; Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකාව, Tamil: இலங்கை), 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 ( /sɨˈlɒn/, /seɪˈlɒn/, or /siːˈlɒn/), Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest.
Sri Lanka's documented history spans three thousand years. Its location and deep harbours provided great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II. Sri Lanka is the home of many religions, ethnicities and languages. The first Buddhist writings occurred on the island. The Sinhalese people are the majority. The many ethnic minorities include Tamils, Muslim Moors, Burghers, Kaffirs, Malays and the aboriginal Vedda people. The country's recent history has been marred by a 3-decade inter-ethnic conflict 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 Jayawardenapura-Kotte, named by a president after himself, is a suburb of the largest city, Colombo. An important producer of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber and the native cinnamon, Sri Lanka has been called The Pearl of the Indian Ocean because of its shape and location. 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 United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, G77 and Non-Aligned Movement. More recent firm government has drawn criticism from the United Nations, Reporters Without Borders, and Amnesty International.