The quality of the surface wind analysis at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (NCMRWF), New Delhi over the tropical Indian Ocean and its improvement in 2001 are examined by comparing it within situ buoy measurements and satellite derived surface winds from NASA QuikSCAT satellite (QSCT) during 1999, 2000 and 2001. The NCMRWF surface winds suffered from easterly bias of 1.0–1.5 ms-1 in the equatorial Indian Ocean (IO) and northerly bias of 2.0–3.0 ms-1 in the south equatorial IO during 1999 and 2000 compared to QSCT winds. The amplitude of daily variability was also underestimated compared to that in QSCT. In particular, the amplitude of daily variability of NCMRWF winds in the eastern equatorial IO was only about 60% of that of QSCT during 1999 and 2000. The NCMRWF surface winds during 2001 have significantly improved with the bias of the mean analyzed winds considerably reduced everywhere bringing it to within 0.5 ms-1 of QSCT winds in the equatorial IO. The amplitude and phase of daily and intraseasonal variability are very close to that in QSCT almost everywhere during 2001. It is shown that the weakness in the surface wind analysis during 1999 and 2000 and its improvement in 2001 are related to the weakness in simulation of precipitation by the forecast model in the equatorial IO and its improvement in 2001.