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It has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Along with the Maldives, Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated "high" on the Human Development Index (HDI), with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations.
The 19th-century Irish historian James Emerson Tennent theorized that Galle, a city in southern Sri Lanka, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory, peacocks, and other valuables.
According to the Mahāvamsa, a Sinhalese chronicle written in Pāḷi, the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka are said to be the Yakshas and Nagas.
In antiquity, Sri Lanka was known to travellers by a variety of names.
The island is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.