For centuries, malaria kept European colonial interests away from the Maldive islands, leaving the remote Indian Ocean island chain on a distinct and largely self-governed trajectory. Successful mosquito eradication in the twentieth century paved the way for development. The COVID-19 pandemic posed a new challenge to the economy, which is now heavily dependent on tourism. But resorts were able to reopen relatively quickly, since they are mostly set up on islands apart from those inhabited by local communities. The nation also has proved adept at finding ways to make tourism compatible with Muslim traditions, though imported harder-line Islamic ideology has raised tensions in recent years. Now the islanders must manage their entanglements with rival regional powers, as China and India compete to provide infrastructure.

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