Saraswat played a key role in developing a series of missiles at a time when India faced tight international technology sanctions.
V K Saraswat, who has been appointed a full-time member of the NITI Aayog, has been one of the most high profile and successful Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chiefs in recent times.
From the time he joined the DRDO in 1972, he has been associated with almost unbroken success in his field of specialisation, missile propulsion.
As a member of APJ Abdul Kalam's hand-picked team that worked on the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, Saraswat played a key role in developing a series of missiles at a time when India faced tight international technology sanctions.
He was closely involved in developing the Prithvi ballistic missile; and each of the five Agni missiles that now form the backbone of India's land-based nuclear deterrent.
While Saraswat worked on propulsion systems, his contemporary and successor as DRDO chairman, Avinash Chander, fashioned their guidance systems.
They remain closely associated, suggesting DRDO might have a useful ambassador in the NITI Aayog.
Saraswat was also instrumental in modifying existing DRDO missiles into a controversial, but apparently effective, anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system that seeks to defend Indian cities by shooting down incoming nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
Saraswat's frequent public statements on the ABM system have been criticised for destabilising deterrence in South Asia.
Within the DRDO, Saraswat remains a hard-driving legend known for apparently endless reserves of energy.
This, perhaps, has also led him into controversy, with the Madras High Court awarding him a three-week jail term for contempt of court in September. Saraswat had refused to implement a court order to appoint someone to a DRDO post.
Saraswat, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, obtained his MTech from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and PhD from Osmania University.
He was awarded a Padma Shri in 1998 and Padma Bhushan in 2013. He retired from DRDO on May 31, 2013.
Photograph, courtesy: PIB