The shallow meridional overturning circulation (upper 1000 m) in the northern Indian Ocean and its interannual variability are studied, based on a global ocean circulation model (MOM2) with an integration of 10 years (1987-1996). It is shown that the shallow meridional overturning circulation has a prominent seasonal reversal characteristic. In winter, the flow is northward in the upper layer and returns southward at great depth. In summer, the deep northward inflow upwells north of the equator and returns southward in the Ekman layer. In the annual mean, the northward inflow returns through two branches: one is a southward flow in the Ekman layer, the other is a flow that sinks near 10°N and returns southward between 500 m and 1000 m. There is significant interannual variability in the shallow meridional overturning circulation, with a stronger (weaker) one in 1989 (1991) and with a period of about four years. The interannual variability of the shallow meridional overturning circulation is intimately related to that of the surface wind stress. Several indices are proposed to describe the anomaly of this circulation associated with the cross-equatorial part.