India has been faring surprisingly well in building high-end capacity in science and technology. A host of global corporations now have labs in India who are now producing seriously important work. There is a large number of patent filings. One small recent example: Google finance was developed in Bangalore.
What is the upside? How good can it get for India? How far can India go in the task of bulking up on top end knowledge, given the constraints of being far away from knowledge hubs in the US, Europe, Japan and Taiwan? Apart from the US and UK, Indian knowledge workers have a language gap also, apart from the gaps of physical distance and time zones.
I think the best answer to this question is : Israel. Israel has all these same strikes against them (and a few strikes which don't apply in the Indian case). Yet, what Israel has got going in terms of top end human capital is breathtaking. As is well known in the finance field, Israel is the 2nd biggest country represented in NASDAQ listings (71 firms as of November 2005). A large chunk of these companies do contract research, or pure mind-work.
I believe Israel shows the way for the kind of role in the global economy could come about in India, in addition to the classic labour-intensive applications which are taking place in India.
CNET News has an excellent feature on high-end knowledge in Israel. Interestingly enough, a while ago, they had done one on India. Their website is a bit hard to use, so you might find the two PDF files to be useful: Israel, India.