The Indies is a term that has been used to describe the lands of South and Southeast Asia, occupying all of the present India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and also Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Malaysia and Indonesia. In a more restricted sense, the Indies can be used to refer to the islands of Southeastern Asia, especially the Malay Archipelago. The name "Indies" is derived from the river Indus and is used to connote parts of Asia that come under Indian cultural influence.
Dutch-held colonies in the area were known as the Dutch East Indies before Indonesian independence, while Spanish-held colonies were known as the Spanish East Indies before the Philippines' independence. The East Indies may also include Indochina, the Philippine Islands, Brunei, Singapore and East Timor. It does not, however, include western New Guinea (West Papua), which is part of Melanesia.
The inhabitants of the East Indies are sometimes called East Indians, distinguishing them both from inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean (which is also called the "West Indies"), and from the indigenous peoples of the Americas who are often called "American Indians." However, the peoples of the East Indies comprise a wide variety of cultural diversity, and the inhabitants do not consider themselves as belonging to a single ethnic group. Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are the most popular religions throughout the region, while Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism and various other traditional beliefs and practices are also prominent in some areas. The major languages in this area draw from a wide variety of language families, and should not be confused with the term Indic, which refers only to a group of Indo-Iranian languages from South Asia.
The extensive East Indies are subdivided into two sections (from a European perspective), archaically called Hither India and Further India. The first is the former British India, the second is modern Southeast Asia or the ASEAN Bloc.
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