A little while ago, The Hindu had a good interview with Vijay Kumar Saraswat, then-head of India’s DRDO, which contains some informative material on DRDO’s origin and evolution, as well as an explanation of why certain DRDO programs have lagged in the past.
I found this section on the past effects of the MTCR to be telling:
We were to develop Prithvi missile’s one version in seven years but we developed three versions in 15 years – first of 150 km range, second of 250 km and the third naval version of 350 km range when fired from the ship, yes we took 15 years but we developed the complete system. Same thing happened in Agni One, Two Three programme. But still time and cost overruns were there because when IGMDP was planned we had planned to import some material. We had to import some materials for Prithvi which was first fired in 1988 and Agni in 1989 and then MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) which was brewing all this time clamped all restrictions on us. All the contracts which we had signed with all companies were not honoured and these companies took back everything. Everything was denied to us, this denial caused us a lot of delay and whatever we needed had to be designed, developed and produced by us.
From 1989 to 1997 was a harrowing period. There were restrictions imposed on India and for things like getting Magnesium supply and Servo valves for launch vehicles, we had to struggle and later produce our very own. At that time, Tamil Nadu government’s TIDCO helped in making Magnesium slab from ore.
Saraswat went on to say that India solved some problems caused by these restrictions, but others remain:
Though technical problems had been solved by first launches of Prithvi and Agni missiles. Now these problems are not there, Today, India produces its own servo valves not only for missiles but also for launch vehicles and many other industrial purposes. What was a critical technology in 1988 is no more critical, new technologies have come. A lot of liberalisation has taken place but the fact still remains that critical technologies which are required are not available to us. For example, we still do not have access to high end computer processors and we have to make do with Intel core system. I cannot get a high end computer and I have to start building it for my missile right from the chip.
Here’s a video of an Indian SLBM test featuring Dr. Saraswat: