NEW DELHI: Russia's invasion of Ukraine has deeply divided the world and policymakers are now increasingly focused on India. The world's most populous country has the geopolitical leverage to reshape global power dynamics. Well aware of his country's growing clout, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wielding it for the good of his nation.

In late July, New Delhi was awash with billboards heralding the upcoming Group of 20 summit to be held in the Indian capital in September. In the signage, Modi was prominently featured alongside India's new G20 logo.

The country hopes to use success at the summit as a springboard to establish itself as the leader of emerging and developing countries. The question is what kind of foreign policy India will pursue once this goal is attained.

India has yet to denounce Russia's aggression against Ukraine and still maintains cordial ties with Moscow. Although the country is a member of the Quad security partnership with the U.S., Australia and Japan, it stays neutral as regards the West and Russia.

Yet a significant change may be in the wind. Modi visited the U.S. in late June and agreed with Washington on robust and broad military cooperation. The agreement involves joint production of fighter jet engines and an increase in the number of facilities to be used to repair U.S. naval vessels in India. In July, Modi visited France and struck a deal to purchase 26 carrier-based aircraft and three submarines.

India's rush to expand arms cooperation with the U.S. and France has obviously been driven by fears of facing an overwhelming Chinese military. India has been struggling to keep up with its rival, as more than half its weapons come from Russia and there has been "some delay" in Russian supplies of military parts due to the Ukraine war, according to a senior adviser to the Indian Ministry of Defense. The person said supplies of certain tank components have been delayed for nearly a year.

Weapons need parts replaced frequently; without this, military preparedness suffers.

If India's military power declines, China would become more assertive in areas along shared borders and in the Indian Ocean, raising tensions. Concerned about that possibility, the U.S. once secretly considered providing direct military aid to India to ensure stability on the border, according to U.S. and Indian diplomatic sources.

India is also looking to Japan for help in modernizing its military. At the India-Japan Forum in New Delhi on July 28-29, foreign ministers, senior officials and experts from the two countries discussed a range of topics regarding the economy and security.

At the forum, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stressed the need to bolster cooperation in the economy, supply chain, digital strategy, technology and maritime security. Many Indian officials also voiced expectations for greater defence cooperation with Japan concerning military equipment and naval shipbuilding.

However, it would be naïve to expect India to embrace military and technology cooperation with the U.S., Europe and Japan, effectively becoming a quasi-ally of the West. New Delhi clearly believes such a path would go against its strategic interests.

There are at least three reasons for India's reluctance to seek a limited alliance with the West.

First, the main lesson India has learned from being colonized by the British is that its top priority should be the ability to defend itself on its own, according to a former senior Indian military officer. India's colonial history of subjugation has also instilled a sense of distrust in Europe.

Second, India -- which places paramount importance on autonomy and independence -- does not want to be shackled by any alliance. It fears forging alliances would make it more difficult to manoeuvre diplomatically while increasing the risk of being dragged into conflict.

"Alliances as in the Cold War era are no longer the norm," said Karambir Singh, who served as chief of the naval staff until the end of November 2021. "In their place, pragmatic partnerships and issue-based convergences are better suited for today's geopolitical challenges."

Third, forming an alliance with the U.S. and other Western nations could provoke a fierce reaction from Beijing, heightening tensions between China and India to dangerous levels. The two countries have had several border skirmishes in the past.

India has beefed up its military power and developed nuclear arms, but it is still no match for China in terms of overall military resources. India is different from Japan, which is protected by a security treaty with the U.S.

India is also concerned that moving too close to the West could incur Moscow's wrath, resulting in an end to military parts supplies from Russia. No matter how quickly India may increase imports from the U.S., France or other Western countries, it will be years before it can wean itself off Russian weapons.

While seeking to deepen diplomatic and security ties with India, it would behoove policymakers in the U.S., Europe and Japan to keep in mind these points.

Still, the West has room to ramp up security cooperation with India. For example, should a conflict break out in the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea, the U.S. might receive indirect cooperation from India, though it is very unlikely that Indian forces would be involved directly. But India has a clear interest in preventing China from gaining total control over the area, which would jeopardize stability in the Indian Ocean.

A senior U.S. military officer said India could help U.S. forces in case of a Taiwan contingency by simply expanding reconnaissance and patrol activities in the Indian Ocean while providing military intelligence.

And there is also the possibility that the warm relationship between India and Russia may cool in the future, making it easier for the West to boost cooperation with New Delhi.

Multiple Indian security experts said the Modi administration has become increasingly frustrated at Russia's missteps in Ukraine. They are worried that if Russia's power wanes and its dependence on China grows, India's security could suffer.

Dealing with India, a nation determined to go its way, requires patience. But the potential benefits of greater cooperation are worth the effort.